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Special Moments

Special Moments

Winger brings the team colors onto the ice before Sunday night’s game five in the NAHL Playoffs between the Aberdeen Wings and the Minot Minotauros at the Odde Ice Center. Photo by John Davis taken 5/30/2021

We will be tracking the most special, the rarest and most interesting sports moments across South Dakota each month. Included are such events for May. Email us at dave@sdsportscene.com if you think we missed something or if you have an event you would like us to consider for this feature:


May 1: In one of the greatest high school track races in state history, Caelyn Valandra-Prue of White River dove across the finish line to nip Cerington Jones of New Underwood to win the 400 meters at the 96 th annual Howard Wood Relays in Sioux Falls. University of South Dakota recruit Valandra-Prue was timed in 56.27 seconds; South Dakota State recruit Jones in 56.28.
May 1: NSU fans hungry for football gathered at Swisher Field to watch the Wolves scrimmage under warm and sunny conditions.
May 1: Sioux Falls Washington graduate Matt Farniok of Nebraska was drafted in the seventh round (238 th pick) by the Dallas Cowboys. The 6-foot-6, 330-pounder was a two-time captain for the Cornhuskers and their 2019 offensive linemen of the year. He helped SFW win the state title in 2015 when he was the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
May 1: NFL teams signed three undrafted area players after the NFL Draft: SDSU wide receiver Cade Johnson (5-10, 180) signed with Seattle; South Dakota Mines offensive tackle Jack Batho IV (6-8, 308) signed with Atlanta; and former Pine Ridge resident and New Mexico offensive tackle Teton Saltes (6-5, 322) signed with the New York Jets. Saltes, an enrolled member of Oglala Sioux Tribe, moved with his family to Arizona in middle school, eventually landing in New Mexico. He spent a lot of his summers training in Pine Ridge training. Saltes didn’t start playing football until he was a high school junior. His great uncle is World B. Free, who played in the NBA from 1975-1988.
May 1: NBC created a TV special to honor “extraordinary individuals who have made an impact during the unusually challenging year of Covid-19.” Among the honorees was Rapid City native and San Antonia Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon.
May 1: For the second day in a row, the Mount Marty baseball team had a player hit for the cycle. On this day, Josh Roemen had a single, double, triple and home run in an 18-8 win over Dakota Wesleyan. The day before, Billy Hancock did the same in a 20-5 win over Northwestern College.
May 2: SDSU rallied to score 24 straight points to defeat Southern Illinois 31-26 in the quarterfinal round of the national football playoffs. SIU drove to the SDSU 36 with 19 seconds left when Michael Griffin sealed the game for the Jacks with an interception.
May 2: Matthew Mors of Yankton was named South Dakota Mr. Basketball. He is the first Yankton boys’ or girls’ player to earn the honor that started for boys in 1978 (winner was Barry Glanzer of Armour). Haleigh Timmer of St. Thomas More in Rapid City was named Miss Basketball. She is the sixth player (Alexys Swedlund, Ryder Kirsch, Skye Warwick, Liam Duffy and Zach Finley) from her school to be honored as the state’s top player. The Miss Basketball award started in 1980 (winners were Kris Holwerda of Brookings and Ann Pancoast of Sioux Falls Washington).
May 3: Mike Henriksen and Mark Ovenden celebrated the 11 th anniversary of their radio sports show, Calling All Sports, that has become a staple for sports fans throughout the state. It debuted on May 3, 2010. There was a time zone mixup with the show’s very first guest so the two hosts had to fill air time by having an extended, unplanned chat with each other.
May 4: Jaden Peters of Wagner set the all-time South Dakota high school record in the pole vault by clearing 16 feet, 1.5 inches in Tyndall. It broke the state record of 16-1 in 1995 by Andy Henrichsen of Rapid City Stevens.
May 7: Mount Marty sophomore catcher Billy Hancock hit 16 home runs this season. It is the most in school history since Jason Nelson (now a MM assistant) hit 16 in 1999. Tim Jensen set the MM record with 19 homers in 1993; Jason Selchert hit 18 in 1995; and Jensen hit 17 in 1994.
May 7: Sioux Falls Washington replaced one former NSU men’s basketball player with another one to fill its boys’ basketball coaching position. Jeff Tobin of Langford took over for Craig Nelson, who left SFW to become the head boys’ coach at Brandon Valley. Both Tobin and Nelson are former NSU players. A couple of days later, another former NSU player, Kevin Ratzsch, would be named as the boys’ basketball coach at Dell Rapids Public.
May 8: Covid-19 continued to cause problems on the local sports scene. Augustana’s spring football game along with Augie Fan Fest was canceled due to COVID-19 within the Viking program. Also, Minnesota State Mankato was scheduled to travel to Aberdeen to scrimmage the Wolves. However, Mankato had to cancel the trip due to Covid-19 issues in its program so the Wolves instead held an intrasquad scrimmage.
May 9: The iconic Huset’s Speedway in Brandon opened for its first full race season since 2016. The track was beset by problems while it was being sold in the previous five years. The track opened on May 23, 1954, and became legendary in the Upper Midwest. Huset’s Speedway was built in 1954 by farmer and Brandon business owner Tilman Huset, who turned his soybean field just south of Brandon into a 3/8-mile dirt oval race track.
May 9: Former University of South Dakota DI national champion pole vaulter Chris Nilsen recorded the top outdoor mark in the world at the United States Track and Field Golden Games in California. Nilsen vaulted 19 feet 4.75 inches to win the event. The former Coyote won the NCAA Division I outdoor national championship in 2018 and 2019 and the indoor national championship in 2017. He was a seven-time All-American during his collegiate career.
May 10: Augustana pitcher Parker Hanson had his prosthetic arm and several attachments stolen from his vehicle about a week ago. The next day, Sioux Falls police recovered Hanson’s backpack with some of the prosthetic’s attachments near Hanson’s house. The prosthetic itself was recovered on this day by two workers at Millennium Recycling Inc. in Sioux Falls who found it among other items in the recycling facility.
May 11: Famed high school coach Chuck Welke Sr. of Warner died. The Redfield and NSU graduate coached several sports at Warner, but became known statewide for his high school boys’ basketball teams. Welke coached the Warner boys for 26 years (plus two at Harrold), guiding the Monarchs to two state championships, two state runner-up finishes and nine state appearances. His teams won 443 out of 643 games.
May 11: Two Lake Region Conference Track and Field Meet boys’ records set in 1969 by Loren Kambestad of Bristol were broken in the 2021 meet. Cody Larson of Warner won the 1,600-meter run in a record time of 4:26.14 (Kambestad’s record was 4:31.6) and in the 800-meter run, Alec Maier of North Central won in a record time of 1:59.38 (Kambestad’s record was 2:00.6) Larson was second to Maier in 2:00.44.

May 12: Taryn Kloth of Sioux Falls and her LSU beach volleyball teammate Kristen Huss announced they were joining the professional ranks. Kloth, a 6-foot-4 O’Gorman graduate, was a two-time All- American volleyball player at Creighton who led the Blue Jays to the NCAA Elite Eight in 2016. Both Kloth and Nuss were All-Americans for LSU and were named the national beach pair of the year in 2021. They went 36-0 in 2021, dropping only four sets throughout the season.
May 12: After Spain native and SDSU senior Teresa Toscano became the first woman golfer in school history to qualify for the NCAA Division Regionals, her season came to an abrupt end when the Baton Rouge (LA) Regional was canceled due to weather. When that happened, controversial rules dictated that the top-seeded six teams and top three-seeded players not on advancing teams move on to the national finals. Toscano fell outside of the top seeds. She won five individual titles this season, including the Summit League title, and eight in her career. Later in the month, she would
become SDSU’s first woman to earn All-American honors.
May 13: Shelly Buddenhagen has resigned as Huron volleyball coach after 19 seasons. She guided the Tigers to 353 wins, two state championships (1998, 1999) and 17 state tourney appearances, including the last 12 when the Tigers finished state runners-up in 2020.
May 13: Former Aberdeen resident Michael Andrew swam the second fastest 100-meter breaststroke in American history at the Tyr Pro Swim Series in Indianapolis. The 22-year-old California resident won the event in 58.67 seconds, one of three events where he has a strong chance to make the Tokyo Olympic team in June at the U.S. Olympic trials. Kevin Cordes set the American 100m breaststroke record of 58.64 in 2017. Andrew is ranked first in the nation in the 100m breast and second in the 50m freestyle and the 200m individual medley. In the Olympic and pro swimming world, that is an unusual combination for a swimmer who has always done things his way as Andrew turned pro when he was 14. He was born in Minnesota and grew up in Aberdeen and Lawrence, KS.
May 15: The SDSU softball team won its first Summit League Tournament title in the history of its program that started in 1971. The SDSU assistant coach is Kristi Villar, who spent seven years at Northern State (2010-17), where her teams won more than 160 games in those seven seasons.
May 15: University of South Dakota freshman Sara Reifenrath won three events at the Summit League Track and Field Championships in Vermillion to earn the meet’s outstanding performer and newcomer of the year awards. One her wins was in the 200 meters in 23.29 seconds, which broke the 27-year-old school record of 23.46 set by Michelle Christie in 1994.
May 15: At Swisher Field in Aberdeen, coach Greg Murley and his Golden Eagle boys won Aberdeen Central’s first Eastern South Dakota Conference track meet since 2004. Central overtook Brandon Valley with one event left to win the meet. Central was led by Sam Rohlfs (won the long and triple jumps and second in the 100 and 200 meters) and Josh Martin (3,200-meter champion and anchor of the winning 3,200 relay).
May 15: The Aberdeen Wings won 51 regular-season games out of 56 played. That is the most in the history of the 46-year-old North American Hockey League. The Wings also totaled an NAHL regular- season record of 103 points. The Wings also outscored their opponents 251-75. It was one of the greatest regular-season performances in the history of any level of hockey.

May 16: Sam Houston State used a 16-play, 5½-minute drive to score a touchdown with 16 seconds left to defeat SDSU 23-21 for the FCS national championship. SDSU rallied in the fourth quarter from a 17-7 deficit with two spectacular touchdown runs of 28 and 85 yards by freshman Isaiah Davis to take a 21-17 lead with less than six minutes left. An estimated SDSU crowd of 4,000 showed up to back their Jackrabbits.
May 18: NSU is sending three South Dakotans, including a sister and brother, to the 2021 NCAA DII Outdoor Track and Field Championships May 27-29 in Allendale, MI. High jumper Tava Berg (Watertown junior) and her brother, hammer thrower Tanner Berg (Watertown senior), qualified as did pole vaulter Jordyn Huneke (Rapid City Stevens sophomore). Tanner Berg would finish seventh to earn his fifth All-American honor of his career.
May 21: The Sioux Falls Lincoln boys led by Gage Gohl (flight 1 singles and doubles champion) and Rocky McKenzie flight 2 singles and flight 1 doubles champion won its seventh straight state tennis title. That is the longest streak in state history. Lincoln also has won the last six flight 1 championships (as brothers Kaleb, with three, and Sam Dobbs won the last five titles before Gohl).
May 21: The state tennis tournament closed the Tang family era for Rapid City Stevens. RCS senior Michael Tang’s final prep appearance concludes a 12-year stretch during which a Tang — Michael or older brother Chuck — have been one of the Raiders’ top varsity players.
May 21: A freshmen pair of Sioux Falls Roosevelt graduates led SDSU to a 7-1 win over Stanford in the opening round of the NCAA DI Softball Championships at the Fayetteville (AR) Regional. Cylie Halvorson hit a pair of homers to drive in five runs and Grace Glanzer pitched a complete game for the Jacks.
May 22: Defending national softball champion Augustana used three triples in the first inning to defeat conference rival Mankato 7-0 to win the Central Region Championship in Edmond, OK. The Vikings (47-6) will advance to the NCAA DII World Series in Denver, where the Vikings won the national title in 2019 (2020 season canceled due to Covid-19). Against Mankato, the Vikings scored all its runs in the first inning off triples from Gracey Brink (Rapid City Stevens grad), Torri Chute and Abbie Lund.
May 22: For the fifth year in a row, the Jackrabbit Athletic Scholarship Auction hit the $1 million mark. This year’s event, featuring more than 300 items up for bid between silent and live auctions, raised $1,074,000.
May 22: SDSU’s most successful softball season in program history reached its end with a 2-1, 10- inning loss to Stanford at the NCAA Division I Softball Championship’s Fayetteville (AR) Regional. The Summit League-champion Jackrabbits ended the year with a 43-8 overall record, matching a school record for wins set by the 1996 squad (43-22). 
May 25: Former Salem (McCook Central) and SDSU basketball standout Kristen Rotert is the new head coach of the Northwestern College (Orange City, Iowa) women’s basketball team. Rotert was serving as the SDSU women’ basketball director of operations. Before that, she spent time in Aberdeen coaching and working for the Family YMCA.
May 26: After a 24-year Hall of Fame career in the National Football League, 48-year-old Adam Vinatieri retired. Vinatieri was born in Yankton, but his family moved to Rapid City when he was young. After graduating from Rapid City Central in 1991, Vinatieri was a punter and placekicker for SDSU. After one season with Amsterdam in the World Football League, he signed with the New England Patriots in 1996 (10 years there, 14 with Indianapolis). Vinatieri is retiring as the NFL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,673 points. Vinatieri had 29 game-winning field goals in his career,
including in Super Bowls 36 and 38. His career resume includes winning four of six Super Bowls, being named to the NFL’s 100 th Anniversary All-Time Team, making 84 percent (599-715) of his field goals and setting numerous NFL records including 44 consecutive made field goals over the 2015-16 seasons.
May 26: Aberdeen native Brianna Kusler, 23, became the first woman to be hired as the head coach for a Class AA boys’ basketball program in the state. She will replace Terry Becker, who coached the Governors for 17 seasons (201-202 record) and to the State AA title in 2013. Kusler was the Pierre boys’ sophomore coach last season. Before that, she was a two-time all-conference player for NSU scoring 1,129 career points. In her senior year at Central (2015-16) she was named the state’s Miss Volleyball and Miss Basketball as she led the Golden Eagles to state titles in both sports.
May 28: Two seventh-graders stunned state track fans by winning the state track and field titles in their first years in their respective sports. Ipswich’s Marley Guthmiller won the State B pole vault title and Wagner’s Ashlyn Koupal won the State A high jump. Coming into the state meet, Guthmiller was the 14 th seed with a personal best of 7 feet, 9 inches — the opening height of the state meet. Guthmiller cleared 9-6 to win the event. Her vault helped Ipswich repeat as the combined state champions (boys’ and girls’ team points added together). Koupal high jumped a two-inch personal best of 5-4 to win the State A event. Next year, she will begin trying to chase down the school record
of 5-8 held by her aunt and one of the state’s best all-time high school and college players, Mandy Koupal.
May 29: West Central won the State A girls’ team track championship led by four-event winner Averi Schmeichel (long jump, 200 and both 100 and 300 hurdles).
May 29: Red Cloud sophomore Jade Ecoffey became her school’s first-ever state track and field champion by winning the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs at the State A meet in Spearfish.
May 29: There was plenty of drama for the girls’ State AA and boys’ State B team titles at the state track meets in the Black Hills. Brandon Valley and Sioux Falls O’Gorman ended up tied with 124 points each after a dramatic final event, the 1,600-meter relay. In that race the top three teams finished within a second of each other with Yankton (3:59.85) first followed by SFO (3:59.86) and BV (4:00.58). In the B boys, Hanson trailed Viborg-Hurley by nine points going into the final event. However, Hanson won the 1,600-meter relay to earn 10 points for a total of 79 points while Viborg-Hurley finished ninth, just out of placing, to finish with 78 total points. Meanwhile, the Sioux Falls Lincoln boys’ won their fifth State AA title in a row by outscoring second-place Sioux Falls Roosevelt 93-88.5 after winning the final 1,600 relay as the third seed (top seed SFR finished third).
May 29: Former Brookings wrestler Ronna Heaton won the women’s freestyle wrestling gold medal at 53 kilograms in dramatic fashion at the Pan-American Games in Guatemala City. Heaton fell behind 6-0 early in the championship match to Luisa Valverde Melendres of Ecuador. However, Heaton rallied to win 9-6. Earlier in the day in pool play, Melendres defeated Heaton 10-0. As a Brookings sophomore in 2015, Heaton became the first female to compete, win a match and place (seventh at 106 pounds) at the South Dakota state high school wrestling tournament. In April, Heaton just missed qualifying for the Olympics by finishing runner-up to Jacarra Winchester, who won the 53kg women’s freestyle title at the USA Olympic Team trials.
May 26-30: SDSU senior pole vaulter Trent Francom of Huron cleared 17-10.5 to tie for second at the NCAA West Preliminaries in Texas to advance to the NCAA DI national track and field championships June 9-12 in Oregon. Also advancing were USD pole vaulters Marshall Faurot and Ethan Bray along with two Coyote women pole vaulters: Helen Falda and Gen Hirata. Also for USD, three-time All-American Zack Anderson of Parker advanced in the high jump. The 6-foot-1 senior cleared a school and state college record 7 feet, 5 inches earlier this season.

May 30: With 19 seconds left in overtime in the fifth and deciding game of the opening-round NAHL playoff series, Kyle Gaffney scored to give Aberdeen a 4-3 win over Minot and send the Wings to the Division Finals against Bismarck. Minot’s Kyle Kukkonen scored with 28 seconds in regulation to send the game into overtime. After Aberdeen won the first two games of the North American Hockey League best-of-five series, Minot rallied to nearly eliminate the Wings. Minot became the first team this season to beat Aberdeen in back-to-back games (the Wings lost only five games in the regular season) after the Wings went 10-2 against Minot in the regular season.

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