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McLean 'shocked' by Official of the Year award

Pictured from left to right: Faulkton's Cole Baloun, Centerville's Seamus O'Malley, Platte-Geddes' Kole Heller, Irene-Wakonda's Garret Anderson and Avon's Brandon Kocmich. The athletes pictured were competing in the boys 100-meter dash final at the Class B state track and field meet Saturday at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

The crowd applauded Don McLean at the state high school track and field meet May 31 at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls.

This is just one memory the Mitchell resident has collected during his career as an official for high school sports.

"I was actually shocked at the importance of the award," said McLean, who received the National Federation Officials Association Official of the Year award on the final day of the state meet. "I was really overcome by it. It is really something to receive an honor like that. A lot of people didn't know me, but they were all clapping.

"It's almost breathtaking."

McLean has coached and officiated track for more than 50 years, working the Corn Palace Relays, South Dakota Intercollegiate track meets and region meets.

He has also officiated football and worked playoff games and state championships in the DakotaDome in Vermillion. Other sports McLean has officiated are girls and boys basketball and volleyball.

For McLean, who also taught for over 40 years, watching young athletes develop their skills is his favorite part.

"It's an honor to be out there with them," he said. "You work with some very fine coaches. Track is a great individual sport because you really have to train and work hard to be successful at it."

McLean, a Waubay native and Dakota Wesleyan University graduate, said making the games fair was something he took pride in and being able to help athletes and coaches is what officiating is all about.

He's been an example of fairness for all South Dakota sports through his officiating. When he refereed a football game in college, McLean had to keep the time. He recalled the windy Friday night, saying, "I always had to retrieve the ball because there weren't ball boys at that time. I ran about a block to get the ball and it was a close ball game.

"When I got back, both coaches wanted to know the time but I hit reset when I was running to pick up the ball."

McLean said he added half a minute from the time he remembered seeing on the clock. He had to "make sure both teams had fair treatment."

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.