Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.
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A few weeks into basketball season, Eastern South Dakota Conference coaches have sighted the teams to beat. In the poll given by The Daily Republic to conference coaches last week, 13 of 16 head coaches submitted votes.
To have one coach named as a finalist in the National High School Athletic Coaches Association coach of the year awards is a massive accomplishment. But leave it to two coaching greats from the Mitchell area to break new heights. Mitchell's Gary Munsen and Avon's Tom Culver were both named to the top eight in their respected categories. Both coaches heard the news Tuesday morning.
The Kernels were looking at déjà-vu. Leading by one point late in the game, the Mitchell boys' basketball team was on defense. It's opponent, Rapid City Central, was looking for the lead. The Cobblers had three opportunities to go ahead within the final 27 seconds.
Gary Munsen put a lifetime into basketball. Maybe that's why he's so happy in retirement. He needed a break. The first thought of exiting coaching came in 2005 after he led Mitchell High School to a state boys' basketball championship against Sioux Falls O'Gorman. But he rejected those thoughts and stayed with the Kernels. "You always have those kids you want to stay around for and coach," he said.
A sense of shock was sent around the state when former Augustana football coach Mike Aldrich was fired in early November. After weeks of the interview process, Athletic Director Bill Gross announced that Jerry Olszewski is the new face of Vikings football Wednesday at a press conference in Sioux Falls. "I am honored to have the opportunity to lead the Augustana football program," Olszewski said during the press conference. "My family is looking forward to becoming part of the Sioux Falls community and the Augustana family. Faith, family and football will be the cornerstone of our program.
When Derek Carlson looked at his phone Tuesday morning, he couldn't believe his eyes. The Dakota Wesleyan University punter received a text message with the word "Congratulations." Carlson, a senior, was named a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics All-American, which was announced Wednesday morning by the NAIA. "It's an incredible honor," he said. "I still can't believe I got it." Carlson has started as DWU's punter for his junior and senior seasons. This season, he punted the ball 56 times for 2,302 yards and averaged 41.1 yards per punt.
Eric Hieb won't have to look back and wonder "what if?" The 23-year-old golfer is fulfilling a dream he's had for years. Hieb, a 2008 Mitchell High School graduate, is playing in the All-American Professional Golf Tour, a developmental tour for the Professional Golf Association. The tour began in early November and runs until the end of February. Hieb moved to Phoenix in mid-November to catch the third tournament of the series. He has played in three tournaments so far and has missed the cut after the second round in each tournament.
The Kernels had their first glimpse of victory when sophomore Beau Brown knocked down a three-point basket with 12 seconds left in the fourth quarter, putting Mitchell up by one. With 7 seconds left and after back-to-back timeouts, Brookings' forward Braxton Carlson drove the lane, scored and lifted the Bobcats over the Kernels 52-51 as the clock ran out. "He just got the ball, took it from the baseline and made the big shot," Mitchell head coach Tom Young said. The Bobcats had four players in double figures with Kaleb Vig and Zach Page leading the way with 12 points apiece. The Kernels dr
TABOR -- For the Kortans, competing on a big stage has become an annual event. Chase, Jaden and Bailey Kortan have participated in the National Football League's Punt, Pass & Kick competition for the last six years. The Kortans, of Tabor, competed in the sectional competition, which consists of participants from South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa, at halftime of the Minnesota Vikings vs. Chicago Bears game Sunday at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. "As a family, this was our sixth trip up to Minneapolis with the kids," said Gary Kortan, the family's father.
Kenny Gunsch has sat in the front row of the Corn Palace to watch Kernel basketball games for roughly 20 years. And again, he was there watching Mitchell in its home-opening Friday evening game against Brandon Valley. "I've always liked basketball," Gunsch said. From the time he moved to Mitchell, players have come and gone as all high school players do, and basketball has remained the community's bread and butter. But the coach of the Mitchell boys has always remained the same. That is, until this year.