YANKTON — The South Dakota Sportswriters Association has announced the winners of its 2012 year-end awards.
Recognition is given for an athlete, coach and team in college and prep male and female categories, as well as independent male and female athlete, independent team and the state’s sports celebrity of the year. Honors are voted upon by SDSWA members.
Celebrity: Mike Miller, Mitchell
Mike Miller has made an NBA career hitting three-point baskets.
But none were as important as the seven he knocked down for the Miami Heat in Game 5 of last season’s NBA Finals.
Miller was 7-of-8 from behind the three-point line, finishing with 23 points and helping clinch the championship over the Oklahoma City Thunder in his second season with the Heat.
Miami won the game 121-106 on June 21 to help Miller to his first championship in his NBA career.
Playing with a bad back and ailing knees, Miller played 21 minutes in the previous four games in the Finals. Through that period, he had made two field goals, with no 3-pointers and eight points.
In Game 5, he knocked down his first 3-pointer of the series, playing a major role in the win.
“It was an opportunity,” Miller said after the game.
Miller played in just 39 games last season and he finished the season by averaging 6.1 points and 3.3 rebounds per game.
Independent Female: Kim Kaufman, Clark
Clark native Kim Kaufman is receiving the Independent Female Athlete of the Year award for the second time in four years after another whirlwind year on the golf course.
In May, the Texas Tech senior capped her junior season by tying for eighth along with teammate Gabby Dominguez in the NCAA Championships at Franklin, Tenn. Kaufman earned honorable-mention All-American honors from the National Golf Coaches Association.
She continued preparation for her senior season by qualifying and then reaching the match play semifinals in the U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship in June; finished third in the Royale Cup Canadian Amateur Championship in July and defended her South Dakota Women’s Amateur Championship at Brookings in August.
Back at Texas Tech, she opened the fall portion of her senior season with a bang — notching top 15 finishes in all four events, including three top five finishes and a weather-shortened victory in October at the Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, N.C. She averaged 71.5 strokes per round in a fall season that ended with her being ranked as the nation’s No. 1 golfer by Golfweek Magazine, which also named her the player of the fall.
“It’s always nice to get recognition for all of your hard work,” said Kaufman, who won fourth South Dakota state Class B individual titles in high school. “At the same time, winning an award doesn’t make you a better player. I know I can’t stop working or setting new goals.”
She’ll close out her collegiate golf career during the spring season at Texas Tech.
Independent Male: Shane Van Boening, Rapid City
Rapid City native Shane Van Boening capped a stellar 2012 with his second U.S. Open title at the 37th Annual U.S. Open 9-Ball Championships in Virginia Beach, Va.
Van Boening, who is widely regarded as one of the best billiards players in the world, also won the 2007 U.S. Open before taking home the crown again this year.
Van Boening, a Rapid City Stevens graduate who is hearing impaired, added the U.S. Open championship to three other wins in 2012 as he took home the Derby City Master of the Table, the U.S. Open One Pocket title and the Players Championship.
Van Boening is currently ranked No. 1 by the United States Professional Pool Players Association and is No. 2 in the Association of Billiard Professionals rankings. He was ranked No. 1 by the ABP in 2011.
Just 29 years old, “The South Dakota Kid” has already left quite a mark on the professional billiards world and is set up for what should be a long and lucrative career.
Independent Team: Brookings Legion Baseball
It truly was the “Year of the Bandits,” as the Post 74 squad won the first state American Legion baseball title in Brookings history.
The Bandits beat defending champion Sioux Falls East 11-10 in the title game on Aug. 5, a few hours after knocking off perennial power Rapid City Post 22 by a 3-1 margin. In all, the Bandits won four consecutive elimination games to reach the top of the podium.
“A couple things come to mind — it really kind of validates what you’ve been doing,” said head coach Rob Hirrschoff, who grew up in Brookings and pitched at South Dakota State. “Baseball has been a huge part of my life since I was four years old and it’s probably the highlight of my baseball career so far, as a player or coach.
“From a personal standpoint, that’s exciting; but even more importantly for the program. I think it validates what we’ve been doing. In terms of baseball, I think we’ve done a great job here of trying to keep as many kids as possible involved with baseball. A lot of people put in a lot of time behind the scenes and I really think this validates what everyone has been doing — not just us, but our whole program.”
Brookings got what Hirrschoff called a “heroic” pitching performance from Matt Thomas on championship Sunday. The right-hander, who earned Tournament MVP honors, tossed a five-hitter on two days rest in the win over the HardHats before returning later in the day to throw two scoreless innings and earn the save in the victory over Post 15.
Every Brookings starter had at least one hit in the title game, with Kelby Beste driving in four runs. Beste tossed the first five innings and Skyler Cary earned the pitching win after getting through the sixth and seventh frames.
Brookings, which went 5-1 against East during the season, finished with a 43-12 record. Post 74 posted a 1-2 mark at the Central Plains Regional — including a 7-3 win over West Fargo, N.D. — to close out the season.
Brookings opened the state tournament with a 10-0 win over Sioux Falls West, as current Kansas State pitcher Landon Busch struck out 14 in six innings. Following a 4-2 loss to Post 22, the Bandits bounced back with a 7-5 win over host Aberdeen and an 8-4 victory over Sioux Falls East — in which the Bandits jumped out to a 7-0 lead in the first frame and Busch struck out nine in seven-plus innings — to set up the wild Sunday.
Prep Boys’ Athlete: Alex Kocer, Wagner
Wagner wrestler Alex Kocer entered his final season of high school competition with a chance to put himself on an elite list.
Kocer did just that, capping a 46-0 season with his fifth consecutive state wrestling title. Kocer clinched the crown with a 14-5 major decision over Newell’s Taygen Schuelke in the championship at 152 pounds, completing a two-day run that also saw him record two pins and a technical fall.
The Wagner grad was the fifth wrestler in South Dakota to win five or more state wrestling titles, joining six-time champs Kirk Wallman of Freeman (1984-89) and Logan Storley of Webster (2006-11), as well as fellow five-time champions Lincoln McIlravy of Philip (1988-92) and Hannon Hisek (1994-98).
Kocer’s title run began in 2008, winning the 103-pound crown. He added a 119-pound title in 2009, a 130-pound title in 2010 and a 152-pound title in 2011 before repeating at that weight class.
Prep Boys’ Coach: Adolph Shepardson, Deubrook
The Sturgis native led the Dolphins to their first-ever state football title — Class 9AA — in his second year at the helm. The Dolphins dominated the Dakota Valley Conference for its first league title, before battling their way through the playoffs while completing an undefeated (12-0) season with a 25-22 victory over Howard in the DakotaDome.
Deubrook outscored its eight DVC foes 394-110, including a 43-6 win at Arlington in a matchup of unbeaten teams on the final day of the regular season. The Dolphins beat Ipswich/Edmunds Central 55-0 in the first round of the playoffs; scored 16 points in the final 1:03 of regulation and overtime to rally past Potter County for a 22-20 quarterfinal win; and outscored Gregory 22-0 in the second half for a 44-37 victory in the semifinals on their way to the Dome.
“We’ve got really good kids; we’ve got a great batch of juniors and seniors,” Shepardson said. “They really bought in to what we’re doing in our program. We got a lot of breaks this year — we stayed healthy. Our best players stepped up; we had some younger guys step up; we had a foreign-exchange student that played a big role.
“We won the big games — we beat Castlewood when they were undefeated; we beat Elkton-Lake Benton when they were undefeated; we beat Arlington when they were undefeated. We knocked out Potter County, Gregory and Howard in the playoffs. So it was just a combination of great efforts throughout the year; and, you know, with a little luck, it turned into a great season.”
Shepardson, 34, who played at South Dakota State and was later a graduate assistant coach at South Dakota, has posted a 20-3 record at Deubrook. The Dolphins had never advanced to the semifinals prior to his arrival and now have two such appearances in as many years.
The 2012 Deubrook squad rewrote the school record book — most notably Ryan Knutson. The tailback ran for a state nine-man record 40 touchdowns while piling up 2,434 yards on the ground in 2012 and was one of five Dolphins on the All-State team.
Prep Boys’ Team: Pierre Wrestling
Winning the state’s prep boys’ team of the year award is just the cherry on top of a monumental year for the Pierre Governors’ wrestling team.
The Governors were nothing short of dominant in 2012 as a school not necessarily known for it’s excellence on the mat became a wrestling powerhouse.
The victories continuously piled up for the Governors this year as Pierre wasn’t defeated by another South Dakota team in a tournament or dual throughout the year.
That dominance culminated in late February when the Governors won Pierre’s first wrestling championship since 1974 when they showed how far a balanced roster can take a team.
The Governors road to the top of the mountain wasn’t easy though, Pierre finished 17th at the Class A wrestling tournament in 2008, making their near perfect season of 2011-12 that much more impressive.
“The lower points of the program have certainly made our last year more special,” Pierre wrestling coach Ryan Noyes said. “Everybody in the program has worked hard to get to this point, from the high school, to the middle school and to our youth wrestling program. It’s been great to see these kids be so successful.”
The 2012 state champions featured state placers in Jebben Keyes (fourth), Tanner Monfore (third), Dawson Monfore (third) Lane Lettau (third), Trey Maier (fourth), Chase Lettau (fourth), Kyle Sarringar (fifth), Seth Scott (fifth) and Dylan Bennett (fifth) along with state champion Caleb Stoltenburg.
Perhaps most impressive is that the Governors are hungry for more. The state champs have began their 2012 season with the same perfection they ended it on, even winning a tough Rapid City Invitational tournament to begin the season.
Prep Girls’ Athlete: Kari Heck, Sioux Falls
Kari Heck continued her assault on the South Dakota high school record books in 2012, making her mark as one of the top track and field athletes in state history.
The Sioux Falls Washington standout, now continuing her career at Nebraska, set an all-time record in the long jump with a leap of 20 feet, 6.5 inches as a senior. She also has top-10 personal sprint bests in the 100 (11.9), 200 (24.75) and 400 (55.5), with her 400 time ranking third all-time behind Rapid City Central’s Jasmine King and Mitchell’s Jill Theeler.
Heck was named Class AA girls MVP at the state track meet as a junior and senior, winning four individual titles in 2011. In 2012, she was upset in the long jump by Alexis Gannon of Brookings by an inch-and-a-half but responded with wins in the 100, 200 and 400.
Heck, a 4.0 student, plans to major in chemical engineering at Nebraska, chose the Huskers after also visiting USD, Minnesota and Auburn.
“When I visited Nebraska, a light bulb went on and it was like, ‘This is the place,’ “ said Heck. “It’s a really good school with a good tradition in jumps, and things clicked with (jumps coach Gary Pepin).”
Her high school coach, Everett Gebhart, was certainly sorry to see her go.
“She’s a special kid,” Gebhart said. “I’ll probably never coach another trackster quite like her.”
Prep Girls’ Coach: Todd Thorson, Ipswich
Todd Thorson of Ipswich has been named the association’s girls’ coach of the year for all sports.
Thorson’s teams have become the gold standard for cross country since he initiated the program in 2000. Since that time, the Tigers have won four girls’ state championships, one boys’ state title and three combined state titles.
Last spring, the Ipswich girls also won the State B team title in track and field.
“He is incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about both track and cross country,” Frederick cross country coach Janelle Barondeau told the American News about Thorson earlier this year. “His enthusiasm is contagious with his athletes as he gets great numbers of athletes out for cross country year after year.”
While Thorson has a resume to envy, he is not one to rest on his past accomplishments. He is always searching for a better technique, a faster way.
“I guess I’m a knowledge seeker,” Thorson told the News. “I’m always thinking there’s something better around the corner.”
Prep Girls’ Team: Warner Volleyball
The awards keep coming for the Warner volleyball team.
The Monarchs are the association’s prep girls’ team of the year for all sports. Warner created a perfect season with a State B championship and a 34-0 match record, winning all 90 of its individual games on the season.
Warner, its coach Kari Jung and senior leader Rachel Rogers have all earned national acclaim as well as statewide fame.
Jung has been named the CBS MaxPreps Small Schools Coach of the Year, the Monarchs have also been named the Small Schools Team of the Year, and Rogers was selected as a Second Team All-American member.
Jung, who is in her 15th year at Warner, guided the Monarchs to their third state championship in the past six seasons this fall. Rogers, a 6-foot-2 senior and Northern State recruit, and her teammates have a combined a 122-5 record in the past four seasons.
College Men’s Athlete: Nate Wolters, S.D. State
The point guard put up huge numbers during his junior season — 21.2 points, 5.9 assists and 5.1 rebounds per game — while leading the Jackrabbits to a 27-8 record and their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division I Tournament.
Despite an ankle injury that kept him out of a pair of games, the numbers are quite similar this season, as Wolters closes in on the SDSU records for career points and assists.
“God willing, he’s going to prove to be the best basketball player ever to play here,” SDSU head coach Scott Nagy said of Wolters, who has caught the eye of NBA scouts. “So obviously, when you’re talking that many years at the university and all the players that have played there, it kind of speaks for itself just how important he is to our basketball team.”
Wolters, 21 and a native of St. Cloud, Minn., earned honorable mention recognition on the 2012 Associated Press All-America list. He was a first-team All-Summit League performer and named the Championship MVP after leading SDSU to the postseason title.
His national stock rose during a 92-73 victory at Washington on Dec. 18, 2011, when he went off for 34 points while adding seven assists and five rebounds and not committing a turnover in the upset victory.
Wolters was a National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 12 first-team selection and named to the United States Basketball Writers Association All-District VI team.
College Men’s Coach: John Stiegelmeier, S.D. State
Coach Stiegelmeier guided the Jackrabbits to a 9-4 season, including the first playoff victory in school history, while eclipsing the 100-win mark for his career.
South Dakota State completed its seventh winning season in nine years at the FCS level — and made its second postseason appearance in four years — while tying the school record for wins in a season.
SDSU finished second in the Missouri Valley Football Conference standings with a 6-2 league record. The season was highlighted by a 58-10 romp over Ohio Valley Conference champion Eastern Illinois in the first round of the FCS Playoffs on Nov. 24 in Brookings.
Stiegelmeier has a career record of 101-76 (58-43 at the Division I level) in 16 seasons as a head coach.
There were two big reasons for the Jackrabbits’ success — a potent ground attack and a solid defense.
Zach Zenner, a sophomore, led the nation with 2,044 rushing yards — an average of 157.23 per game. He was 11 yards off the school record.
On the other side of the ball, SDSU ranked fifth in scoring defense (16.38 points per game) and eighth in total defense (305.31 yards per game). Senior linebacker Ross Shafrath broke the single-season school record with 150 tackles.
Zenner and junior offensive tackle Bryan Witzmann earned FCS All-America honors — they were on the Sports Network first team and the Associated Press second team. Zenner was also an American Football Coaches Association All-America pick, while being named to the Capital One Academic All-America second team.
Half — two — of SDSU’s losses this season came to defending national champion North Dakota State, including a 28-3 defeat in the second round of the playoffs on Dec. 1 in Fargo. The Bison are back in the title game this year.
College Men’s Team: S.D. State Basketball
Nate Wolters and Co. capped a school-record tying 27-win season with the first NCAA Division I Tournament appearance in SDSU history.
The Jackrabbits steamrolled IUPUI (77-56) and Southern Utah (63-47), before getting past Western Illinois 52-50 in overtime to win the Summit League postseason title in March in Sioux Falls.
“I always use the word ‘overwhelming,’” SDSU head coach Scott Nagy said about the season. “It’s kind of like everybody that was involved with it, that was their dream to get to the NCAA Tournament and be a part of what everybody calls the Big Dance. So it was overwhelming — a great experience — but certainly one that we don’t want to be the last one.”
SDSU was the South Region’s No. 14 seed in the NCAA tourney and dropped a 68-60 game to Baylor. The Jackrabbits led by as many as 12 points in the first half but came up just short in the game played in Albuquerque, N.M. The Bears ended up advancing to the Elite 8 before falling to eventual national champion Kentucky.
South Dakota State went 27-8, finishing second in the Summit League with a 15-3 mark. The Jacks were the only team to beat Oral Roberts in regular-season league play — 75-60 in Brookings. SDSU’s resume also included a 92-73 victory at Washington.
The Jackrabbits were a solid Division II team but the transition to the Division I level — which began in 2004-05 — was rough.
SDSU did not manage more than 10 wins in any of its first four years at DI, including a 6-24 campaign in 2006-07. After 13- and 14-win seasons the next two years, the Jacks had their first winning season in 2010-11, going 19-12. But, their all-time DI record still stood at just 79-131 entering last year.
The team is 9-4 (1-0 Summit) this season and currently riding a 23-game home winning streak — one of the longest active streaks in the country. The Jacks were picked to win the Summit League title and Wolters was tabbed the Preseason Player of the Year.
College Women’s Athlete: Amber Hegge, South Dakota
It’s been nine months since Amber Hegge walked off the basketball court at the DakotaDome for the last time.
The Crofton, Neb., native, however, has not left the game.
Hegge spent five seasons with the University of South Dakota women’s basketball program and was one of the consistent forces that drove the Coyotes from the Division II ranks up to the D-I level.
“We had a good run; did a lot of great things,” said Hegge, who was named the College Women’s Athlete of the Year by the South Dakota Sportswriters Association (SDSWA).
“Everything we were able to do over the past four or five years was awesome, I have no complaints. I was very fortunate.”
Hegge guided the Coyotes to a 23-8 record and a berth in the WNIT during her senior season, when she led the Summit League in rebounding (8.5) and was second in scoring (19.2).
The four-time conference player of the week as a senior closed a career that moved her into second place all-time at USD in scoring (1,739), second in blocks (173) and fifth in rebounding (834).
College Women’s Coach: Curt Fredrickson, Northern State
Curt Fredrickson of Aberdeen is no stranger to the South Dakota Sports Writers Association year-end awards.
Today, he wins his sixth such award. There are no stats that are kept on the awards that started in 1954, but the Northern State women’s basketball coach is surely among the leaders.
Fredrickson was named the 2012 women’s college coach of the year for all sports. It is his fifth time winning in that category. In 1977, he was named independent male athlete of the year for his standout play as an amateur baseball player.
A state Hall of Famer and former NSU standout, Fredrickson is often mentioned as one of the best baseball players in South Dakota history. He also is one of the winningest women’s basketball coaches in the nation.
His teams have 714 wins, two national titles and numerous post-season appearances in Fredrickson’s 34 seasons at NSU. The honors have been coming fast and furious for Fredrickson:
On March 5, he will be inducted into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Hall of Fame in Sioux City.
On April 13, he will be inducted into the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame in Sioux Falls.
College Women’s Team: S.D. State Basketball
Four years of postseason eligibility — four NCAA Tournament appearances.
South Dakota State won 17 of its final 20 games to finish the 2011-12 season with a 24-9 record following a 7-6 start.
The Jackrabbits won their third Summit League regular-season title with a 16-2 mark, before again taking care of business in the postseason — but it wasn’t easy. They cruised past IPFW (80-59) and IUPUI (79-54) before needing overtime to top UMKC 78-77 in the league title game. The Kangaroos led by as many as 17 points in the game but the resilient Jackrabbits showed why they’ve owned the Sioux Falls Arena, improving to 12-0 in Summit League tourney games all-time.
The No. 13 seed in the Fresno Region, SDSU again ran into a tough opponent in the NCAA tourney — Purdue. The Boilermakers, behind a postseason record nine 3-pointers from Courtney Moses, beat the Jackrabbits 83-68. It marked the third consecutive season SDSU had to play a true road game in the NCAAs.
Mitchell native Jill Young, a senior on the 2011-12 squad, finished her career with a Summit League record 305 3-pointers while ranking 15th on SDSU’s career scoring list with 1,356 points. She and fellow-senior Jennie Sunnarborg played in four NCAA Tournament in their careers.
This year, South Dakota State is off to a 7-5 start, including a 60-55 home win over 15th-ranked Nebraska.
For the complete article see the 12-26-2012 issue.
Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 12-26-2012 paper.
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