The high school season hasn’t officially ended — class is out, though state golf tournaments still linger — but otherwise it’s time to close the book on another memorable year.
On Friday night, the season went out in style at the first-ever South Dakota Sports Awards, a gala to honor the premier high school athletes, coaches and teams — as well as folks who have left their mark in the community. Oh yeah, and five-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning was there, too.
“To have one event that recognizes all the athletes in South Dakota, that’s certainly a unifier,” said Ciara Duffy, who was named the girls basketball player of the year. “It’s an incredible honor. It’s very humbling, especially to receive it among such incredible athletes and people. To receive an award for the state of South Dakota, which I love, is just awesome.”
Say what you will about the absence of professional sports in South Dakota, our home to slightly more people than Jacksonville, Fla. But with rising college programs in Division I, and national championship (and championship contenders) from Division II to NAIA, you can’t deny the current state of affairs if both exciting and historic.
Jacksonville can keep its Jaguars. I don’t think we’re missing out. The passion for high school sports in South Dakota runs deep.
We are, after all, blanketed with small towns — dozens have between 1,000-10,000 people, and even more still have less than 1,000 — so even in a rural state potted with co-ops you can’t venture too far from a court, field or ballpark that’s full of action.
Then there’s Sioux Falls, where graduating classes alone reach the several hundreds. But the Metro division could be better thought of as a breeding ground to some of the state’s best rivalries.
Whether it’s another Farniok from Washington running roughshod over the competition or a running prodigy from Ipswich or one of our many multi-sport standouts, there’s always someone on the prep scene who commands our attention.
In terms of memorable moments, the past year had plenty. Your list of favorites likely depends on whose colors you sport on game day. The online highlight tape site, Hudl.com, took notice of a crazy finish from the Sioux Falls Christian boys basketball team.
“It was a tie game with tie winding down,” said Chad Barkema, who delivered a cross-court pass to teammate Keegan Van Egdom in the closing seconds against Western Christian in Hull, Iowa. “Keegan is one of our sharpshooters, so I just wanted to give him the ball. I just saw him running down the court and gave it a toss.”
Van Egdom caught it in midair, squared his body to the basket and let the shot fly before he reached the ground. The Chargers won, and continued their march all the way to the program’s first state championship.
Those singular moments become scorched into our memory. But there’s more to sports than the winners — only one team gets to carry that distinction at season’s end — and we know that through the embodiment of community.
“There’s not one specific moment,” said Dell Rapids’ Ty Hoglund, the boys basketball player of the year, when asked about a game or outcome he’ll remember above the rest. “It’s about the relationships that I’ve built that will last a lifetime. After basketball and after my body gives out — just the people that I’ve met across the way. That’s what I’ll remember most.”