MVP enjoying new co-opPLANKINTON — Mount Vernon and Plankinton are now joined at the hip.
PLANKINTON — Mount Vernon and Plankinton are now joined at the hip.
The two towns separated by 13 miles are in the first year of a new co-op. This school year, both high schools combined all of their athletic programs — except football — to become the Mount Vernon/Plankinton Titans. Football will be included next year.
“The original reason for the co-op was because we had some declining numbers in some of our sports, especially girls’ basketball,” Mount Vernon superintendent/principal Patrick Mikkonen said. “From there, we had discussion, and it turned into all sports not just girls’ sports. So far, things are going well and we are heading in the right direction.”
Declining enrollment in athletics has forced several South Dakota high school athletic programs to join together and form multi-town teams.
“I think there are a couple reasons why schools are joining together,” Plankinton superintendent/principal James Jones said. “First, it’s based on number of students available to play the sport, especially in football, which has huge numbers. Second, when teams started joining, it set off a chain reaction and people figured it’s probably best to not to be the last one to go in that direction if you want to be competitive.”
Previously, Plankinton was involved in a co-op with White Lake for football. That collaboration came to an end after the 2010-2011 school year. White Lake joined forces with Kimball the following year.
While other sports teams at the schools have been co-oped before, neither boys’ basketball team has.
So far this season, the MVP Titans boys’ basketball team is 2-1.
“I think things are going really well, actually, better than anticipated, I think,” said Eric Denning, who was previously the head coach of Mount Vernon for 15 years and is now the Titans’ head man. “The kids and I are having fun with it, and so far everything has been positive.
“This is kind of a fresh start for us and we are looking forward to moving in a positive direction.”
Denning’s Mount Vernon teams recorded winning seasons in five of the last six seasons.
The merger has given the Titans a wealth of depth. MVP has 16 players on varsity and the vast majority of them are upperclassmen.
“This has been great compared to the competitive atmosphere we had last year,” senior guard/forward Kellam Karst said. “Last year, we practiced against ninth- and tenth-graders. This year we are going against juniors and seniors, and it’s just a lot better for everybody.”
With Mount Vernon and Plankinton being so close in proximity and old athletic rivals, could there possibly be some left over animosity?
Not a chance, Jones said.
“We were rivals before, but the fans are wearing Titan blue and silver now,” Jones said. “I think the parents and communities have supported the kids very well.”