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Following COVID protocols allows for completion of winter sports

Tournament workers clean one of the mats between rounds at the 2021 Lee Wolf Invitational Saturday at the Golden Eagles Arena. Photo by John Davis taken 1/30/2021

In the past several weeks champions have been crowned in a variety of sports. There has been plenty of emotion, drama and intensity. Considering the events of the past year, a case can be made that anybody involved in South Dakota high school athletics have all won.

“I think a lot of us if we were betting on it back in October-November about whether we would have gotten to that point of getting to have state championships, it would have probably been 50-50,” said John Krogstrand, Associate Executive Director of the South Dakota High School Activities Association. “So to get there and get all the way through it, to be able to have championships, count our blessings and be thankful that we were able to get that point.”

Krogstrand said many individuals deserve a ton of credit for the winter sports season that just concluded. He said things looked a little iffy as numbers rose in November and December.

“A lot of credit goes back to the coaches, kids, administrators, schools in that 3-4-5 month time frame doing the right things, making the right decisions and making those alterations and abiding by suggestions, recommendations and guidelines as best as we could to get to that point,” he said.

Krogstrand said there were a bumps along the way, but that they did not result in major shutdowns. When issues did come up, people took the right measures to help ensure that the entire season wasn’t lost.

Of course, this past year was anything but normal. Many Native American schools opted not to have seasons in light of the COVID pandemic.

“We are still working with our Native American schools and those specifically that chose, or tribal government decisions chose for them, maybe to not have a season to try to figure out what’s best for those kids going forward,” Krogstrand said. “Some transferred out and now are looking to transfer back to their original schools and what the eligibility is going to look like for kids who have been at distance learning this entire time. There’s a lot of factors still yet to continue to navigate with some those situations and trying to make sure we do right by all of our kids in the state.”

This winter’s state tournaments definitely looked different than others. At some venues, like Wachs Arena in Aberdeen, fans were cleared out after each contest and had to reenter the facility. Masks were required and social distancing recommended.

“We owe a debt of thanks or a debt of gratitude to our coaches, our schools, our fans, our spectators, for realizing to work with all the different entities, the schools involved, the host sites involved, the personnel at those high school sites,” Krogstrand said. “There were some things that we had to do that were a little unique and maybe a little different from being completely wide open as we had in the past. I think by and large individuals were great about helping us with that.”

As for moving forward, spring sports should be a bit more manageable if for no other reason than that they take place outdoors. Also, golf and tennis already went through a fall season with protocols that have already been tested.

“I’m confident that the protocols and the pathway that we’ve kind of put together to move forward with our spring sports and to have spring sports championships is a very workable format,” Krogstrand said. “It’s very realistic and feasible. Certainly, tennis and golf we were able to test run those a little bit. We were able to have a first run of those in the fall. I think the guidelines we had there worked out really well.”

Track and field is the only sport that hasn’t had its trial run to date. Krogstrand is optimistic that there is a good plan in place for that as well.

“Track and field, obviously, the vast majority of meets being outdoor meets, being able to distance and spread out during the down time, I think we’ve got a good plan in place to move forward,” he said. “We’re continuing to evaluate what our state championship and state culminating event will look like.”

Again, Krogstrand gave a shout out to all those involved to get this point.

“Thank you to everybody that helped us get to this point, because without the community and statewide efforts and doing the right things, and to stay home when we’re sick, and to keep our kids safe, our coaches, our officials, we would have never had these championships,” he said. “Maybe it’s ironic that we stopped and didn’t have championships last year when we had a handful of cases but by doing those right things even though are numbers were higher, I think everybody was able to use some common sense and good decision making to allow us to continue forward and get to our championships.”

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