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Gaikowski shines as multi-sport standout for Waubay-Summit

Waubay/Summit’s Seth Gaikowski, center, tries to get to the basket as Warner’s Peyton Jung, left, defends during a Region 1B SoDak 16 qualifier game in Webster. Gaikowski and the Mustangs take on De Smet in the State B tourney on Thursday at Wachs Arena. Photo by John Davis taken 3/4/2022

WAUBAY – Whether throwing a touchdown pass, nailing a three-pointer, sprinting down the track, sinking a putt or roping a calf, Seth Gaikowski finds a way to make an impact in whatever he does.

The senior standout from Waubay does a little bit of everything and does all of it well.

In the fall he was the quarterback for the Dakota Hills football team, he is currently a key starter for the Waubay-Summit basketball team, competes in track and field and golf for the Mustangs, and will soon be headed to South Dakota State University to compete in rodeo.

Gaikowski said there is one thing that ties all of those activities together.

“I’d say the biggest thing is the competitiveness and the refusal to be average. In everything I do, even golf is probably the sport that I take least serious, but still something inside me churns that makes me want to be the best golfer in the group,” Gaikowski said. “I like to think of myself as very driven to be as good as I possibly can at anything and everything that I do. Whether it’s football, basketball, golf, track, being just a good role model for the younger kids. Just a little bit of everything.”

Gaikowski grew up on the family farm and has been around horses most of his life. It has led to a passion for roping calves. He said there is something special about the sport of rodeo.

“The adrenaline rush, 10-seconds is what a good run would be, it’s short lived, but it’s very rewarding,” he said. “I would say one of the best parts about rodeo is not the 10 seconds that you’re competing, it’s the hours that you spend with family and your friends. It’s always called the rodeo family, or the rodeo friends. … There’s no better friends than people at the rodeos.”

His rodeo background crosses over to other sports, including basketball, where coach Mark Amdahl called Gaikowski “our unsung hero.”

Amdahl said Gaikowski is the team’s best defender and always shows up ready to work.

“He like a blue-collar kid that comes to practice every day, ready to go,” Amdahl said. “He never complains. He always puts forth maximum effort.”

That includes hours spent studying game film on upcoming opponents to determine tendencies.

Amdahl believes Gaikowski’s rodeo background and his personality, which includes a strong attention to detail, has influenced his basketball abilities.

“If you’re a rodeo guy, you’re probably going to be athletic, you’re able to move,” Amdahl said. “He’s never really lifted weights and he’s a strong, strong kid.”

As strong as Gaikowski is physically, he’s even tougher mentally.

He said part of mental toughness is learning how to lose and display good sportsmanship. Another part is just focusing on the task at hand and not think too far ahead.

“The biggest thing is just being able to slow your mind down and have that perfect run or that perfect putt and be able to have that in your mind,” Gaikowski said. “I think a lot of times we underestimate the power of our mind and what a positive mindset can do for someone and how it can help your performance.”

Gaikowski’s mental toughness, combined with a unique athleticism that crosses through five different sports makes him an ideal fit for the Mustangs basketball team.

As a result, Amdahl can literally play his senior leader anywhere on the floor.

“He’s played the one before, he’s guarded a post player before,” Amdahl said. “He can play all 1 through 5 positions and can guard all five positions. He can handle the ball. …. He’s a talented kid that just does his job.”

Waubay/Summit’s Seth Gaikowski, right, tosses the ball inbounds during Friday night’s Region 1B SoDak 16 qualifier game in Webster. Photo by John Davis taken 3/4/2022

When Waubay-Summit opens the tourney at noon on Thursday against De Smet, it will mark the compilation of a life-long quest to get to the Big Show.

“I thought this is unreal how I’ve been watching the state tournament every year since I was how young. This year is finally the year that we’re in it and we’re not going to be watching it from the TV, so it’s really a surreal feeling,” Gaikowski said. “We’re very excited. I feel we’re really prepared. I don’t feel like we’re nervous. We’re going to go there and try to take care of business, and do our job and see how the tables turn.”

As busy as Gaikowski’s schedule is, Amdahl said he is never too busy to help others. He volunteers to coach his sister’s fifth-grade basketball team and one night a week in the summer offers to help those who want to learn more about rodeo.

Being a senior, there is always one final football game, one last basketball game, but Gaikowski tries to keep everything in perspective and his schedule allows him to do that.

“Even though it’s the last this or the last that, it always seems like something else is coming up,” he said, “so it kind of always gives you something to look forward to.”

And for Gaikowski, it also provides another opportunity to have a positive impact on those around him.

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