Four area individuals were honored in the South Dakota Sportswriters’ Association’s annual year-end awards, recognizing the top individuals, coaches and teams of 2019. The awards are a yearly tradition dating back to 1954.
Among the winners included Dakota Wesleyan University’s Kamberlyn Lamer as college female athlete of the year, Chamberlain High School’s Nash Hutmacher as the top prep male athlete, and Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan football coach Jeff VanLeur and Winner High School girls basketball coach Larry Aaker were honored as the state’s top high school coaches for boys and girls sports team, respectively.
A senior from Hartford, Lamer completed the multi-event double, winning the NAIA indoor pentathlon in Brookings in February and then the NAIA outdoor heptathlon in May in Alabama.
Lamer’s story got into the spotlight when she was able to successfully appeal her way into the heptathlon field after her coach missed a registration deadline to have her participate, despite being the overwhelming national favorite in the event. She was named the NAIA’s Field Athlete of the year for both the indoor and outdoor seasons and is the first DWU track athlete to win a national championship.
In July, Lamer graduate transferred to the University of South Dakota, where she intends to use her final year of collegiate eligibility.
Hutmacher continued his utter domination in Class A’s 285-pound class, winning a third straight state championship and running his win streak to 124 straight matches, capped with a nine-second pin in the title match. His success on the mat has continued as a senior, running his current pin streak to 46 straight, surpassing the previous state record of 44. (Canton’s Kellyn March has also passed the old mark, and is currently at 48 straight pins.)
Hutmacher was also named to the Class 11B all-state football team for a third time, after he posted 88 tackles and four quarterback sacks this past fall. In December, he signed a letter of intent to play football at Nebraska. This marks the second straight year that Hutmacher has received the award.
Already among the state’s top all-time football coaches with 240-plus wins, VanLeur led his Seahawks to their first Class 11B state championship. It is the seventh state championship under VanLeur’s leadership in his 37 years as Seahawks’ coach, led this time by five Class 11B all-state players in a 12-0 undefeated season, the third perfect campaign in his tenure.
Aaker coached the Warriors to the only perfect season in South Dakota high school basketball in 2018-19 at 24-0, which was capped with a 60-53 win over previously undefeated West Central in the Class A state championship game.
As for the state’s top sports celebrity, that went to a former University of South Dakota Coyote who became the toast of Winnipeg. Quarterback Chris Streveler, who helped the Coyotes to their first-ever FCS postseason berth, was a dual-threat weapon as the Winnipeg Blue Bombers won their first Grey Cup since 1990. In his second season with the Canadian Football League squad, Streveler posted 1,564 yards passing and 726 yards rushing.
Here are the other selections:
Independent male athlete
Miles Krajewski, Yankton: Krajewski, a 14-year-old from Yankton, is one of the top para-badminton players in the world, ranking eighth in singles. He ranks third in men’s doubles (with Vitor Tavares of Brazil) and 13th in mixed doubles (with Katherine Valli of USA).
He is in contention to represent the U.S. in the 2020 Paralympics in Tokyo, earning top-three finishes in several international events this past year.
Independent female athlete
Ali Lindner, Sioux Falls: Lindner, a Sioux Falls native that attended Harrisburg High School, was a key piece in the University of Minnesota’s first trip to the Women’s College World Series in May. She started 40 times and played in 50 of the Gophers’ 60 games as a freshman and hit .205 with three home runs and nine RBIs, while regularly playing center field in the NCAA tournament run.
Aberdeen Wings Hockey
In their eighth season in Aberdeen, the Wings claimed the NAHL Championship with a 2-1 win over Fairbanks. It was the best season in team history, logging a 97-point season with a 47-10-3 record and scoring 255 goals. Goaltender Matt Vernon was the championship round MVP, allowing one goal on 58 shots.
College male athlete
Chris Nilsen, South Dakota
Nilsen, a junior at the University of South Dakota, stayed at the top of the nation’s pole vaulting podiums, winning the NCAA Division I Outdoor Championship for a second time with a jump of 19 feet, 6 inches.
It was his third national title overall, as Nilsen also took second at the NCAA indoor meet. Nilsen won the Pan-American championship for the United States and he claimed the Summit League’s indoor and outdoor pole vaulting titles, running his total of conference championships to five.
He was seventh at the U.S. Outdoor Championships in Des Moines, Iowa in July. This marks the second time Nilsen has been honored by the SDSWA, adding to a selection in 2017.
College men’s coach
Jerry Olszewski, Augustana Football: In his seventh season at the Vikings’ coach, Olszewski was named NSIC Coach of the Year for a second time, helping Augie to a 9-3 season after the team was picked to finish sixth overall in the preseason. He is the only coach in school history to lead the Vikings to multiple nine-win seasons.
College men’s team
Northern State Basketball: A year removed from a national championship game berth, the Northern State men’s basketball team repeated as Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular season and postseason champions.
The Wolves finished the 2018-19 season with a 26-7 record, including a postseason berth. Northern was upended by Southeastern Oklahoma State in the opening round of the Central Region Tournament.
After the season, head coach Paul Sather stepped down to accept the head coaching position at the University of North Dakota. Saul Phillips has taken over the program.
This marks the fourth time that the Wolves have been honored as the state’s team of the year, joining selections in 1959, 1993 and 2006.
College women’s coach
Aaron Johnston, SDSU basketball
Johnston led South Dakota State to its best season in Division I history, taking the Jackrabbits to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 for the first time. It marks the ninth time SDSU has gone to the NCAAs under Johnston in a 28-7 season, while Johnston has now climbed up to 476 career wins in 19 years at SDSU, accounting for nearly half of the program’s 1,000-plus victories. This marks the fourth time Johnston has been honored by the SDSWA, adding to honors in 2003, 2004 and 2006.
College women’s team
USD volleyball: The Coyote volleyball program recorded its best season as a NCAA Division I program, going 31-3 with a perfect 16-0 regular season run through the Summit League.
Though a loss to Omaha in the semifinals of the Summit League Tournament derailed the Coyotes’ bid to make a second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, USD responded with a run in the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. The Coyotes advanced to the final before losing to Atlantic Coast Conference power Georgia Tech in front of a USD home volleyball record crowd of 2,431.
Prep Boys’ Team
Pierre football: Dominant from start to finish, the Governors cruised to a 12-0 record and their third straight Class 11AA state championship. That came on the strength of 519 yards of total offense per game, while averaging 59.2 points per game and scoring 710 points for the season.
Prep female athlete
Sophie Tietz, Watertown: Tietz continued her notable high school athletic career by placing in four events at the state Class AA track and field meet in May. She followed that up with a stellar fall, repeating Class AA first-team honors to help Watertown High School’s volleyball team go 28-2 and capture its first state Class AA championship in 22 years in November.
Prep girls team
Northwestern volleyball: The Wildcats finished the season with a 41-0 record, completing a perfect year for the program’s 11th state championship with a three-set sweep over Faulkton Area. This marks the first time the program has been honored as the state’s team of the year. The program twice had its coach honored as the state’s coach of the year.