Local pros' memorable moves top 2017 sports
For most of this decade, they've been South Dakota's three most recognizable professional athletes.
And in 2017, Chad Greenway, Mike Miller and Riley Reiff — all of whom call the Mitchell area home — were on the move.
Greenway officially retired after 11 seasons with one franchise, while Miller was not on an NBA roster after 17 years, moving closer to capping a memorable career. And Reiff moved closer to his home state and has had a big season for the Minnesota Vikings.
The combined impact of the three star athletes, each revered locally as role models, made the story No. 1 on The Daily Republic's list of top sports stories in 2017. The honor is decided upon by the newspaper's sports staff at the end of each calendar year.
Greenway played his final game as a Vikings — game No. 156 of his career — on Jan. 1, and carried out his goal of cherishing each moment of the 38-10 win over the Chicago Bears to close the 2016 regular season. The Mount Vernon native was the last player introduced to the crowd prior to the game and was one of the last players off the field at the end of the contest. He wasn't ready to retire then, waiting to talk with his family and to make completely sure he was prepared to call it a career.
On March 7, Greenway — the 17th overall pick out of Iowa in the 2006 NFL draft — formally retired, leaving the Vikings with more than 1,300 career tackles and with two Pro Bowl selections to his name.
"Because I grew up in South Dakota, to Iowa, to here, I had so many fans and family members who could come to games," Greenway said at his retirement news conference. " ... Thinking back to 2006, my wife, her goal was (for me) to be drafted by anybody south of Iowa. Then we go to Minnesota, but now looking back it was an incredible opportunity."
Just three days later, South Dakota Vikings fans picked up another rooting interest, as Reiff signed a five-year contract with Minnesota, after playing his first five seasons in Detroit.
"I'm excited to come in here and work and be a positive impact on this team,'' Reiff said. "I'll come in here and do whatever the coaches ask. ... I love playing in the Black and Blue Division (NFC North). I think it fits me.''
Reiff has hit all of the right notes for the Vikings, holding down the left tackle position and anchoring an offensive line that struggled mightily in 2016. Blocking for surging backup quarterback Case Keenum, Reiff has been a part of an offense that ranks in the top-10 for offensive yards per game and points per game. That success helped set the table for Minnesota to win the NFC North division title, posting an 11-3 record with two games remaining.
"It's been good. I'm enjoying it," Reiff said in October. "I've had to give more tickets up, but it's been fun. I'm close to home. I know a lot of people up in the area."
In the back end of an accomplished career, Miller, 37, played just 20 games during his second season with Denver, but had a key role as a veteran presence on a young Nuggets team. If this is indeed it for Miller, his career ends as a 41 percent 3-point shooter, with nearly 11,000 points scored in more than 1,000 games played for seven NBA teams, averaging 10.6 points per game. He made 10 playoff appearances and won a pair of championships with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013.
Miller, who has put together the longest NBA career of any South Dakota-born basketball player in history with 17 seasons, said he's still fielding some phone calls about potentially playing again but feels good about being around his kids and family.
"Like anything else, opportunities are out there. If they come knocking, maybe I'll answer, maybe not," Miller said in December. "Either way, it's been an amazing ride."
2) Alexandria Angels win second straight state title
The Big Red Machine that is the Alexandria Angels amateur baseball team didn't stop winning in 2017. For a second straight season, Alexandria claimed the Class B title, finishing the season at 27-1 with a 4-0 win over Larchwood, Iowa, for the state title Aug. 13 at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.
Championship Sunday included two wins for the Angels, as the semifinals finished early Sunday morning, with Trever Vermeulen outdueling Harrisburg's Aaron LaBrie 1-0. Later that day, Tyson Gau blanked the Diamonds in the 4-0 victory, capping another season of amateur baseball dominance. Gau and Vermeulen were co-tournament MVPs, with Vermeulen continuing his state-record winning streak on the mound of 38 consecutive pitching victories.
The Angels won 53 of 54 games over the course of the last two seasons, and carried a 34-game win streak until a May 26 loss at Winner-Colome.
3) Bridgewater-Emery boys basketball goes undefeated
For the first state championship in the school's consolidated history, Bridgewater-Emery put together a season that will be remembered for a long time. The Huskies finished 26-0, plowing through much of the regular season without much resistance before the state tournament. In Aberdeen, the Huskies picked up an opening-round win 67-39 over Platte-Geddes, before a close win over Sully Buttes 61-58 in the semifinals. That set up a meeting with Wolsey-Wessington in the championship, in which Bridgewater-Emery rallied from 13 points down in the third quarter to win 63-58.
The Huskies, coached by Scott Schultz, was led by sophomore Sawyer Schultz, who was the first 10th grader named to the Class B all-state first team since 2011. Schultz, who was The Daily Republic's boys basketball player of the year, was joined by second-team all-state pick Sam Arend and third-teamer Jamin Arend.
Bridgewater-Emery, which is the No. 1-ranked team in Class B to start the 2017-18 season, is 2-0 to open the year and currently on a 28-game win streak.
4) Gregory football runs table again, wins state title
The Gregory High School football team was not to be denied in 2017, cruising to a second straight Class 9AA championship with another 12-0 season. It marks the third state championship in four seasons in Class 9AA for coach Brian Allmendinger's Gorillas.
With a high-powered offense that posted 631 yards of total offense in the Class 9AA state championship game, the Gorillas chewed through the Class 9AA field, capped with a 56-30 victory over Irene-Wakonda. Gregory averaged 47 points per game, led by dynamic quarterback Andy McCance and had five all-state selections at season's end, including senior playmaker Jayd VanDerWerff.
McCance, a senior, was The Daily Republic's football player of the year, accounting for 81 total touchdowns and more than 3,700 yards of total offense. Both McCance and VanDerWerff intend to play Division I football, heading to the University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University, respectively.
5) Mitchell Post 18 baseball finishes second at state
When the Mitchell Post 18 Legion baseball team trailed 6-3 against Rapid City Post 320 heading to the bottom of the eighth inning in the Region 3A tournament on July 20, the likelihood of making Class A State Legion baseball tournament appeared slim.
But that marked the first of what would be a week of rallies, as Mitchell scored six runs in the eighth inning to win the elimination contest 9-6 and clinch a state trip. Mitchell's bid for the region title was denied by Pierre Post 8 in a thrilling 10-9 contest at Cadwell Park on July 21 but Mitchell returned to the state tournament for the first time since 2013. In Rapid City, Mitchell lost 5-2 on the first day to Renner, again facing elimination early in the tournament. But Mitchell picked up a 3-2 win over Sioux Falls East and an 8-5 win over Brandon Valley before knocking off host and powerhouse Rapid City Post 22 5-4. The championship game meant Mitchell again faced Pierre in the championship, where Post 18 lost 12-10 in 11 innings after rallying out of a 10-1 hole.
Mitchell finished the year at 29-20, claiming the Sportsmanship Award at the state tournament and reaching the final day of the state tournament for the first time since 2009.
6) Nash Hutmacher wins state, national wrestling titles
Putting together one of the most dominant freshman seasons in South Dakota wrestling history, Chamberlain's Nash Hutmacher went 44-0 and claimed the 285-pound Class A state championship. Hutmacher dominated Brookings' senior Eddie Miller 3-1 in the featured state championship match and finished his freshman campaign with 32 pinfall victories.
There wasn't much of a break for Hutmacher, who competed with team South Dakota in the USA Wrestling Cadet Freestyle National Championships in Fargo, North Dakota. On the national stage, the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Hutmacher followed his first state championship with his first national championship at 285 pounds. He became the first South Dakota male wrestler to win a cadet national championship since 1990.
Early in his sophomore season, Hutmacher is out to a 14-0 start, winning 13 matches by pinfall.
7) Mitchell volleyball puts together breakthrough season
It was a season to remember for the Mitchell High School volleyball team, which qualified for the Class AA state tournament for the first time since 2012. The Kernels, who finished the season at 21-6 and seventh place at state, earned the No. 2 seed in the state tournament and spent time ranked No. 1 in the state's coaches poll.
Led by juniors Mackenzie Miller and Mandy Schmidt, the Kernels averaged 12.3 kills per set and hit .272 with an average of 2.2 aces per set. Miller set the single-season school kills record with 459, while Schmidt has the career set assist record with 2,110. With 11 juniors expected to return, expectations will be high for the 2018 season.
8) Mitchell boys basketball goes winless, makes changes
The year 2017 was a rough one for Mitchell High School boys basketball. The Kernels were winless to cap the 2016-17 season, finishing 0-21. Erik Skoglund resigned from his head coaching position after Mitchell's final game, as Mitchell was looking for its third coach since the end of the 2011-12 season.
MHS Activities Director Cory Aadland announced Todd Neuendorf as the new leader for the Kernels on April 24, more than a month after Skoglund stepped down. Neuendorf recorded a 208-60 record, seven state tournament appearances and a Class A state title in 2015 in 11 years coaching at Aberdeen Roncalli. A Watertown native, Neuendorf told The Daily Republic, "I think Mitchell is the basketball capital of South Dakota."
9) DWU basketball teams return to nationals
For the second consecutive season, Dakota Wesleyan University's men's and women's basketball teams created March Madness in Mitchell. Both teams returned to the NAIA Division II national tournaments in Branson, Missouri for the Tiger men and Sioux City, Iowa for the DWU women.
At the national tournament, the DWU women beat Milligan 66-54 in the first round, but fell 83-75 to Eastern Oregon in the second round. The Tiger men, who were making their third-straight appearance in the national tournament, dropped a 98-93 contest to College of Idaho in the opening round. Both DWU teams are ranked in the latest top-25 coaches poll and will look to make simultaneous national tournament trips for the third year in a row.
10) Myah Selland closes out high school career, moves on to SDSU
Myah Selland wrapped up one of the most impressive South Dakota high school girls basketball careers in dramatic fashion, leading Sanborn Central/Woonsocket to the Class B state championship game. The Letcher native finished her time as a Blackhawk with 2,219 points, five state tournament appearances, three top-three finishes, and three Class B all-state first-team appearances. She won The Daily Republic's girls basketball player of the year honor for a third time, to go with the Class B girls Spirit of Su award and the state's Miss Basketball award.
Now competing as a freshman for South Dakota State, Selland is shining for the Jackrabbits, who have started the season 10-3. The 6-foot-2 guard/forward has started 12 games as a true freshman, averaging 9.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. She poured in a career-high 20 points in SDSU's 75-67 win over then No. 23 North Carolina State on Nov. 24 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.