S.D. prep athletes undergo season transitionIt’s transition time in South Dakota. I’m not talking about transition from one governor to the next, although that is under way in Pierre. I’m talking about the transition from fall to winter high-school sports.
By: Terry Woster, The Daily Republic
It’s transition time in South Dakota.
I’m not talking about transition from one governor to the next, although that is under way in Pierre. I’m talking about the transition from fall to winter high-school sports.
Sure, a few teams are still playing some football game or are still going at it on the volleyball court. For most schools, though, the season ended with a disappointing loss either in the final game or match of the regular season or as some point along the trail to the playoff summit. The athletes whose dreams fell a bit short in their fall sports take a deep breath and start building dreams of glory days on the basketball court, the gymnastics apparatus or the wrestling mat.
I loved this time of year when I was a kid in Chamberlain High School. I was nothing if not a dreamer of huge dreams. Unfortunately for those big dreams, I had an undersupply of natural talent to see me through. The dreams tended to die rather quickly in my years as a student-athlete.
It was a different time, the late 1950s and early 1960s. Chamberlain had three sports, really — football, basketball and track. Guys played baseball in the summer, but it had nothing to do with the school. It was Legion ball.
Some of the teams were pretty good when I was a kid, but we didn’t connect them to the, ahem, Mighty Cubs.
When I said just now that “guys played baseball in the summer,’’ I wasn’t trying to make any gender reference. Guys played football in the fall. Guys played basketball in the winter. Guys ran track in the spring.
If girls wanted to participate in those days, they could try out for cheerleader.
I’ll never forget the spring, I believe it was 1968, when John Egan, sports editor of the Argus Leader, sent me to Tyndall to shoot pictures of the Tyndall Relays, and there were girls competing in some of the events. I was hanging out with the sportswriters, and they were all talking about whether girls could ever be expected to compete in something as grueling as a half-mile run.
This was at a time when Wilma Rudolph and other college-aged track athletes were winning Olympic titles, but back home, we weren’t sure the girls had the strength to go around the track a couple of times. We were all wrong, of course, but who knew?
So, as I said, high-school athletics was for boys, and only in those three sports. We didn’t offer wrestling at the time. I saw my first wrestling match — other than professional “wrassling’’ on TV — when I enrolled at South Dakota State.
I didn’t play football, couldn’t figure out how to get the shoulder pads to work, and I always got the helmet backwards. Without football, there was little for a high school guy to do in the fall except study, and being just the student part of student-athlete gets a little old. Before I finished high school, though, a guy named Don Giese had figured out a way to erase the boredom of fall for me.
Giese was track coach, and he talked a few of us guys into running a mile or two a few days a week after school in the fall. We were members of the cross country team. If you go to the Chamberlain school website and check the cross country page, you’ll see that the sport started for the Cubs in 1966.
I have a yellowed newspaper clip that says I finished in the top 25 in the state meet in 1959. Now, I was hurt and didn’t run that day. The paper got me mixed up with my cousin Leo. Even so, it’s proof that somebody ran for the Cubs that year.
I guess what the school website is tracking is actual, organized cross country.
The best part of cross country for me, other than finding a brand-new Titleist golf ball during the 1961 state meet run on the golf course in Brookings my senior year, was the transition to basketball.
Between seasons, I was always a future champion.
Terry Woster’s columns are published on Saturdays and Wednesdays in The Daily Republic.