There were plenty of captivating moments in South Dakota sports in 2013.
Before the ball drops in New York on Tuesday night, let’s remember these moments that made South Dakotan’s cheer loud and proud for their home state’s team and athletes.
The year of 2013 began as the year of the Jackrabbit.
South Dakotan’s had watched Nate Wolters dominate the hardwood for four years, but in early February, his legend grew. On the road at IUPUI, the senior point guard delivered possibly his best moment. Wolters exploded for 53 points, and grabbed the national spotlight for a night by making SportsCenter’s Top Ten plays. Also, on social media, the famous catchphrase, ‘Naters Gonna Nate,” become a popular Twitter hashtag for his new and old fans.
A month later, Wolters led his Jackrabbits to a second straight NCAA tournament appearance with a another Summit League title. The Jacks would later fall to Michigan in the first round, but it was indeed a memorable way to cap his career at SDSU.
Meanwhile, at the same time, the SDSU men weren’t the only Jackrabbits creating noise. The SDSU women made history again, winning the Summit League for fifth straight year in as many years. The Jacks beat rival, University of South Dakota, in the Summit League title game to make their fifth NCAA tournament. However, they eventually fell in the first round to South Carolina.
March Madness was wild for a few other local teams.
In college first, the Augustana women splashed into Vikings history by making it all the way to the Division II Final Four, and winning the most games in a season in school history. Later in 2013, Dave Krauth would capture his 500th win as the Vikings head coach.
At the state high school basketball tournament, the Lincoln Patriots girls basketball team won the Class AA state title as a fifth seed. The Patriots upended No. 1 Aberdeen Central in the semifinals, and beat Macy Miller’s Mitchell Kernals in the championship. The following weekend, the Pierre Governors won their first boys title since 1982! Pierre was led by a pair of Division I recruits, and played with heavy hearts for their teammate Conrad Adams (Adams battled cancer last year).
The year of the Jackrabbit continued into May, as the SDSU baseball team made the Division I baseball tournament behind ace Layne Somsen. The Jacks would not make it out of the first round, losing to the Oregon Ducks. Their ace, Layne Somsen, got drafted by the Cincinnati Reds.
May was also a good month for the USD Coyotes. Pole vaulter Bethany (Buell) Firsick became the first national champion for the Coyotes in their first year of Division I postseason eligibility. In Eugene, Oregon at the Division I Track and Field Championships, Firsick jumped 14′ 7 and 1/4″. Firsick will come back as a senior in 2014 in hopes to defend her title.
In June, Mitchell native Mike Miller hit a three-pointer without a shoe, and helped lift the Miami Heat to their second straight NBA World Championship. Miller is back with the Memphis Grizzlies and former Skyforce coach Dave Joerger in 2013-2014.
Later that month, Wolters was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round, and then, was later traded to the Milwaukee Bucks. In his first year, Wolters has played in 25 games while averaging 22.5 minutes, 6.7 points, and 3.6 assists. Also, in the second round, Colton Iverson, a Yankton native, was drafted by the Boston Celtics. Iverson is currently playing in Turkey.
Keeping up with trend of winning titles in June, the Sioux Falls Storm won another title. The Storm was led by quarterback Terrence Bryant, as he returned to beat the Nebraska Danger, 43-40. The Storm’s title was their third straight championship.
In the heat of July, there was plenty of fireworks. Racing fans flocked to Huset’s Speedway to watch Tony Stewart drive with the best World of Outlaws drivers. Stewart nearly won the race, but spun out in the closing laps. Tim Kaeding would win the event.
On the baseball diamond, Cagey returned, and so did the Canaries. The Canaries missed the playoffs, but Tim Pahuta hit nearly everything he saw over the fence at Sioux Falls Stadium to Buffalo Wild Wings. Pahuta hit 29 home runs, and broke the franchise record for most home runs in a season.
In September, a new facility was opened for sports fans to enjoy basketball, volleyball, and wrestling. The old saying, ‘Build it, and they will come,” became a reality, as the the Sanford Pentagon was completed. The Pentagon hosted numerous big-time basketball contests, including an NBA exhibition contest between Wolters’ Milwaukee Bucks and the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Wisconsin Badgers also played St. John’s in college men’s basketball. Currently, the facility hosts high school basketball, wrestling, and volleyball events, and is the home for the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
The boys of fall also welcomed in September, as bone-chilling hits, and touchdowns replaced the sweet sound of the crackling of the bat, and the smell of rubber tires on the racetrack.
On the gridiron, the boys of fall didn’t disappoint college or high school fans. USD won their first Missouri Valley conference game in 2013, and finished the year 4-8. Meanwhile, in Brookings, the Jacks were led again by Zach Zenner, as he ran for over 2,000 yards again. SDSU knocked off rival USD for a second straight year in the Dakota Dome, and made the FCS playoffs. SDSU beat Northern Arizona in the first round, but lost to powerhouse Eastern Washington in the second round.
On the high school football scene, the Lincoln Patriots rolled to the first-ever 11AAA championship. Lincoln was led by Caden Quintanilla, as the senior running back rushed for 244 yards and four touchdowns. Lincoln beat Roosevelt, 47-24.
In other action, Pierre won the 11AA title over Watertown to cap off their stellar year in sports. It was the Governors first football title since 1914!
In 11A, West Central beat No. 1 Madison in electrifying fashion, as running back Jace Hanisch threw a touchdown to Cody Bussell with 19 seconds left to win, 28-21.
For the 11B title, Canton beat Parkston, 20-14. In the nine-man playoffs, there was some historic performances. In 9AA, Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan defeated Arlington, 36-6, to win their third title in four years. In 9A, Potter County whipped Leola-Frederick, 60-22. Potter Country was led by senior quarterback Chayce Hall, who tossed a record 466 yards and eight touchdown passes. In 9B, Avon continued their football success by beating Hamlin, 24-22.
A week later in volleyball, O’Gorman was led by junior Taryn Kloth, and the Knights won their first AA title in 11 years, In Class A, Dakota Valley beat three-time defending champions, Sioux Falls Christian in the semifinals. The Panthers would go on to win their first ever title. Warner defended their Class B title.
Amidst football and volleyball, Augustana and USF both made history in cross country. Both schools made the Division II cross country national championships. The Vikings men finished third, led by Paul Yak. Yak was sixth individually at the nation’s top meet. USF was 18th.
As you have read, there was plenty of exciting, and thrilling sports teams, and athletes for South Dakotan’s to cheer for in 2013. As the present year closes, 2014 will begin, and new names, and new teams will get a chance to make history and have their opportunity to forever be remembered in South Dakota sports.
ESPN 99.1 would like to wish all a Happy New Year, and hopes many are blessed in 2014!