The South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) voted unanimously July 22 to proceed with high school sports on time. However, schools and localities will have the final say regarding both fan attendance and athlete participation.
Daniel Swartos, executive director of the SDHSAA, said the main focuses of the task force were safety and keeping kids active and involved in their schools. Despite the decision to continue on time, Swartos says that things will look a bit different for both athletes and fans.
“Starting from the bus ride to contests there will likely be assigned seating on buses. We are hoping schools require students to wear masks to help with close contact. At the games there will likely be varying procedures for who schools allow to attend the contest,” he explained. “We’re happy to move forward with this. We’re going to continue to monitor this throughout the fall and throughout the school year to be honest. Parents should know we have put a lot of time and effort into putting in as much mitigation as possible to keep your kids safe, and everyone involved safe.”
De Smet High School Athletic Director Marv McCune said, “The SDHSAA has put together a task force and done the best job they can in preparing for fall sports. Several De Smet athletes have been participating in summer competition, and so far, they have not been exposed to COVID-19. There will be several safety precautions in place as we move into practices and competition. Of course, if we have any positive cases during the season, a progression of steps and tiers must take place to determine if we continue to practice and compete or if certain athletes can return to play. The administration is in discussion as to how we will sanitize equipment, lockers and facilities. Right now, the seasons will open as usual, and we will adjust to any situations that arise.”
Football practice begins Aug. 6 with 24 athletes participating. The first football game of the season begins at 7 p.m. Aug. 21 against Clark-Willow Lake at Clark. Co-head coaches are Dan Wilkinson and Wes Clubb.
The De Smet cross-country team includes about 15 runners in grades 7-12. Cross-country practice begins Aug. 10, and their first meet, the Deubrook Invitational, begins at 9 a.m. Aug. 29 at White. The team is coached by Cory Haugen.
The De Smet volleyball team also begins practice Aug. 10. There are only 8-10 high school girls participating, so the team will need to draw from the junior high team to fill the junior-varsity roster. They will host Howard beginning at 6:15 p.m. Aug. 25. Vicki Dylla is their coach.
“With the approval coming through for sports, I think most of us are very excited and just want to get the student-athletes back in their competitive environments,” said Haugen. “There will no doubt be challenges ahead.”
This summer, student athletes had the opportunity to participate in morning workout sessions for the boys and afternoon sessions for the girls. The sessions had great attendance, according to Superintendent Dana Felderman. Felderman said they implemented SDHSAA guidelines for Phase I for much of the summer, but recently started implementing Phase II recommendations. They were also able to accommodate 10-and under participants for each session. The last scheduled workout is Thursday.
“Understanding that our ‘normal’ sports season might not happen as in recent years, I am just excited to watch the kids be able to compete and offer SDHSAA activities, considering they were abruptly canceled in the spring,” Felderman said. “There may be protocols put in place for our facilities in which we host these events, but this will be determined at a later date.”
Lake Preston athletes are in a sports co-op with Arlington for competitive cheer and football. For these two sports, the teams otherwise known as the Lake Preston Divers and Arlington Cardinals are the A-LP Badgers.
Practice for the Badgers competitive cheer team begins Aug. 3. The team competes Aug. 31 at the Dell Rapids St. Mary Invite at Dell Rapids. Krista O’Dea, Brooke Virchow and Kylie Sheets are coaching the eight team members. They have been working this summer on choreography, something that had to be put on hold in the spring because of COVID-19. Try-outs for this year’s team also were delayed because of COVID-19.
Football practice for the Lake Preston-Arlington Badgers football teams is scheduled to begin Aug. 6. The Badgers play their first game of the season Aug. 21 against the Pheasants at Parker. Their first home game is Aug. 28 against the Viborg-Hurley Cougars at Lake Preston. Head coach is Steve Gilbertson of Arlington with Jordan Solberg of Lake Preston assistant coaching. There are between 34-36 athletes out for football this season.
“The football season is going to start as usual, and hopefully we can get through it,” Gilbertson said. “Obviously it’s a strange time for all of us, but we are hoping for the best.”
Tonya Bumann will once again coach the Lake Preston Divers cross-country team. Their first practice is Aug. 13, and their first meet is the Deubrook Invitational beginning at 9 a.m. Aug. 29 at White.
Volleyball practice for the Lady Divers begins Aug. 13 with the first game against the junior varsity players Aug. 25 in Lake Preston and another game scheduled Aug. 27 against Iroquois-Doland at Iroquois. Kelsey Smith and Sara Beckler are volleyball coaches.
“We continue to work on our back-to-school plan along with making sure our students and staff are safe as we move forward,” Felderman said. “This plan continues to be a working document, so we are asking fans, parents and students to continue to be flexible and understanding of this ever-changing time.”