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2023 Top-10 SD High School Sports and Activities Moments

South Dakota Public Broadcasting

As another year nears an end, it's fun to look back at some of the great sports and activities moments that surrounded our high schools in South Dakota during the 2023 calendar year.

Here's SDPB's Top-10 moments from the year, along with honorable mentions and other great moments as well.

Top-10 Moments

No. 1 – Simeon Birnbaum caps career with another record

In his final race in a Rapid City Stevens uniform, Simeon Birnbaum finished the 1600m run at the 2023 state track and field meet with a time of 4:02.78. This topped legendary runner Rod DeHaven’s state meet record of 4:09.8 set in 1984.

Birnbaum had many impressive performances throughout his time as a prep athlete, but his final run, on the state's biggest stage, is one that will be remembered for a long time.

Full story, click here

No. 2 – Maeve Boetel breaks state record in Vault

At the state gymnastics competition, O'Gorman's Maeve Boetel put on a flawless performance in Vault. Not only did her near perfect run break the state record in the event, but it displayed some of the raw excitement and emotion that comes with sports in South Dakota.

No. 3 – Gracelyn Leiseth finishes prep career as best female in Shot Put and Discus

Hamlin's Gracelyn Leiseth is the all-time female state record holder in both Discus and Shot Put.

In Discus, her prep career mark sits at 171-8, while in Shot Put, it resides at 52-6.75. Again, both all-time marks in South Dakota.

Full story, click here

No. 4 – De Smet wins third straight boys hoops title

The last time a Class B school won three straight boys state basketball titles, it was Webster in 1946-1948, and that was under the umbrella of the two-class system.

This past March, in a season that started with some outside doubts, due to the departure of Kalen Garry and Rett Osthus, De Smet fought their way back to the state tournament where they found themselves once again playing in the state championship game.

The Bulldogs would defeated Lower Brule to win the state title.

Full story, click here

No. 5 - Inaugural year of state softball

2023 also cut the ribbon on a new sanctioned sport in South Dakota - softball!

Aberdeen hosted the inaugural SDHSAA state tournament for the sport.

Before each of the three tournaments began, a special ceremony was held to honor three individuals, who have made an impact with the sport in South Dakota.

Castlewood (B), West Central (A), and Sioux Falls Lincoln (AA) would go on to win state championships at the event. A truly special moment for sports in South Dakota.

No. 6 – Chester Area upsets Warner for ‘B’ volleyball title

Josh Jurgens
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

Chester Area and Warner put together one of the best volleyball matches in recent history at the championship match of the 'B' state tournament this year.

The Monarchs entered the match undefeated on the season. For the Flyers, they too came in with a more than impressive resume, but it was slightly overshadowed by Warner's recent dominance.

It took five sets to crown a winner, but it was Chester Area who won the state title for just the second time in school history.

Full story, click here

No. 7 – Eric Christensen goes out on top

Tim Tushla
South Dakota Public Broadcasting

In what was Eric Christensen’s final game as the head coach of Harrisburg, the Tigers successfully defended their state championship from a year ago with an 8-1 win over Mitchell in the 2023 ‘AA’ girls title match.

Coming into the game, coach Christensen had already announced that he would be stepping aside following this season’s campaign to follow his daughter Hailee’s college career in Brookings next year at South Dakota State University.

Full story, click here

No. 8 – Warner and Deubrook Area break points record at state football

Coming into the 9A football title game, I think most thought there would be some exciting offense and big plays, but NOBODY thought we'd see as much of it as we did.

It took 130 combined points to decide a winner, which is a state record for combined points in a South Dakota state high school football game.

Big play after big play, points came in bunches. Eventually, Warner was the last team standing as they claimed their first ever state football championship.

No. 9 – Rowan Grace sings stunning rendition of National Anthem

Rapid City Central's Rowan Grace, who was a contestant on NBC's Season 22 of The Voice, performed a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem to begin day two of the state wrestling championships.

No. 10 – Taylor Graveman caps career with three titles

Taylor Graveman of Spearfish finished her high school girls wrestling career as a three-time state champion.

Along with being a dominating force on the mat, Graveman also holds world records in powerlifting as well.

Honorable Mentions

Audrey Meyer breaks ‘AA’ record in Floor Exercise

Devon Schmitz birthday buzzer-beater

Viborg-Hurley goes back-to-back in Molly Mason’s final game

Yankton boys win ‘AA’ title on 100-year anniversary of 1923 title

Jake Olson wins second boys golf title, leads Watertown to its first

Lincoln wins 9th straight state tennis title

Emery Larson of Chester goes back-to-back at state cross country

Pierre wins seventh state football title

Hot Springs wins first state football title

Other Great Moments

Third times the charm for Hamlin girls basketball

Boon Brothers experience all-state band together

Genevieve Osborn becomes first female to officiate a state football championship game

Todd County goes back-to-back in All Nations

Lincoln boys soccer completes redemption tour

Sioux Valley cheer wins 17th straight title

Sioux Falls Christian wins first girls tennis title

Mitchell wins first girls golf title

Rapid City Christian wins first boys tennis championship

Nate Wek is currently the sports content producer and sports and rec beat reporter for South Dakota Public Broadcasting. He is a graduate of South Dakota State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Journalism Broadcasting and a minor in Leadership. From 2010-2013 Nate was the Director of Gameday Media for the Sioux Falls Storm (Indoor Football League) football team. He also spent 2012 and 2013 as the News and Sports Director of KSDJ Radio in Brookings, SD. Nate, his wife Sarah, and two kids Braxan and Jordy, live in Canton, SD.