SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO)- It took a pandemic… but for the first time in over 100 years, there will be no state basketball champions in South Dakota, leaving a lot of athletes heartbroken.
“Yesterday it was just heartbreaking, I think most of us knew in the back of our minds that we were probably not going to be able to play the state tournament, but then to see the words that it was canceled, it just hit really hard. Just being a senior, that was really tough,” St. Thomas More Senior Ryder Kirsch said.
“It kind of all hit me at once. With some people it hits later on, but yesterday it all hit me at once. I don’t know how to feel about it right now, I’m really disappointed still and I think I let all my emotions out yesterday,” Lennox Senior Madysen Vlastuin said.
The remaining winter championships weren’t the only thing to go as all spring sports were canceled as well. While the decision to cancel the season for athletes is never easy, South Dakota Executive Director Daniel Swartos says it’s in the best interest of the schools.
“It was a natural decision, I’ll say that. It wasn’t easy it didn’t feel great, but it felt natural to sort of tie ourselves to what the schools are doing and we consider ourselves an extension of the school,” SDHSAA Executive Director Daniel Swartos said.
While thousands of athletes mourn the loss of what could’ve been, Kirsch and Vlastuin are taking this as an opportunity to learn.
“I won’t take another day of going to school for granted again, especially I won’t take going to practices for granted again. Sometimes I didn’t want to go to practice, but I definitely won’t take any practices or the chance to play basketball (for granted) ever again,” Vlastuin said.
“Every game could literally be my last game because you never know what will happen. So you just have to give that 100% effort every game and every practice,” Kirsch said.
One positive is that Kirsch and Vlastuin will both continue their basketball careers in college as Kirsch will play for Black Hills State and Vlastuin for SDSU.
For now, the sports world stands still, but soon enough, the fall sports season will return, and as of now, Swartos says that will start on time.
“Everyone’s hope is that we are through this by then, but as for now we are planning to start the seasons on time next fall. Of course the practices for those start in early August. The department of health and the governor’s office I’ve been great partners throughout this, they’ve kept us informed. We’ll continue to work with them,” Swartos said.