By Rich Winter
(By now, most people across South Dakota know that Todd County freshman, Caelyn Valandra-Prue repeated as South Dakota Class A state champion in the 400 meters. She also placed third in the 100 meters and third in the 200 meters)
What you might not know is she was recently nominated for South Dakota Track Athlete of the Year....At an all black-tie banquet in Sioux Falls, Valandra-Prue showed everyone there who she is and where she is from.
By Rich Winter
On May 16 some of the best prep athletes from across the state gathered at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls to announce athletes of the year in a multitude of categories. Listed as a black-tie formal with a processional across a red carpet, Todd County freshman, Caelyn Valandra-Prue turned more than a few heads when she hit the red-carpet in a dress that represented her and her Lakota culture.
Mother, Stacee Prue had a few doubts about the outfit being received well in a place that stressed cocktail attire.
“My biggest worry was watching her walk in and seeing how she would handle it,” Prue said.
Mike and Stacee Prue’s fears were alleviated when Caelyn got out of the car.
She owned it and the Prue’s could feel their daughter’s confidence growing as she showed South Dakota exactly who she is.
“That dress is who I am and that’s what I wanted to represent was my culture,” Valandra-Prue said. “I was proud to be wearing something from my culture and a bunch of people came up and said wow that’s awesome, and some people gave me ‘the look.’”
For the Prue’s even the invitation to attend such an event was monumental. Valandra-Prue the all-state basketball player and track phenomenon was the first Native American athlete to be nominated for a South Dakota Athlete of the Year.
Valandra-Prue specifically was nominated for South Dakota female track athlete of the year. She along with seven other finalists attended the event.
While there she got to see some seriously good South Dakota athletes.
“Being the first Native person to ever be nominated it was cool being around all of those other athletes,” Valandra-Prue said.
At the Region 7A track meet in Mission last week, Valandra-Prue won the 100, 200 and 400 meter sprints by sizeable margins. She says she envisions athletes like Belle Fourche sprinter Shayla Howell, Rapid City Stevens’ Kyah Watson and Rapid City Central’s Hannah Young being in those races when the competition isn’t elite.
During the recent elementary track meets in Mission, Valandra-Prue said she got mobbed by a bunch of little one’s from Littleburg and Rosebud. Kids from all the schools came up to her and told her their times and just said hello.
She’s embracing that role, that role-model role.
“I like going to those meet,” Valandra-Prue said. “All these little runners came up to me and wanted to tell me they ran a 13-something or jumped a certain distance.”
State Track Meet Results: 100 M 3rd, 200 M 3rd, 400 M (CHAMP)
400 meter recap: As the gun went off, Valandra-Prue erupted from the blocks, catching up with 2017 Class B state champ, Karley Peters at the half-way point. Timmer, who had been chasing Valandra-Prue caught the Lady Falcon freshman at the 250-meter mark. With 100 meters to go, Valandra-Prue was third, trailing Timmer and Kaci Cooper, also of St Thomas More.
But CVP reached for another gear, caught and passed both STM athletes, and surged through the tape to repeat as Class A state champion.
400 meter final results:
1st– Valandra-Prue 57.54
2nd– Timmer, STM 57.98
3rd– Karley Peters, Parker 58.73
4th– Cooper, STM 59.27
“I thought she ran a really smart race,” Bob Kornely, Falcon track coach said. “She went out really strong and was able to set herself up and then at the 300 mark she found a gear none of the other girls had.”
Valandra-Prue also competed in the 100 and 200 meter sprints. She finished 3rdin both events, behind Wyoming bound Belle Fourche senior Shayla Howell and Parker junior, Karley Peters (2017 state champ in 100, 200, 400).
“The other races she got beat by two state champs so she’s in good company,” Kornely said.