There is a special group of athletes on the South Dakota State University campus. They number about 70 students. Their teammates look up to them as leaders, and they have rightfully earned that honor.
Just who exactly are these athletes? They are this year’s senior class of athletes.
From football to cross country to swimming and diving to basketball, this year’s group is unlike any group from the past. They came into SDSU just as the school moved from Division Two to Division One. They did not know what to expect when signing with SDSU, but most did not expect to get to NCAA postseason play.
Last year and this year, volleyball and wrestling had their shots. Most played their SDSU careers without having a conference home and conference honors to compete for. That all changed in July, when the Jackrabbits joined the Summit League for all sports but wrestling and football.
They have traveled across the United States for the honor of representing SDSU. They have gone through the transition to Division One. They have played for Independent championships instead for a spot in NCAA tourneys, though volleyball got their shot this year.
It has not been an easy task to basically compete for nothing. These athletes had some of their fellow teammates quit on them and go to other schools; there are some that have gotten injured and lost starting or key reserve spots.
Instead of moping around, they have embraced the challenge and opportunities head-on to represent Jackrabbit nation so proudly across the country. Though their time as student athletes is almost up, they have left a lasting impression on the campus of SDSU, the city of Brookings and the state of South Dakota.
These athletes have endured the most difficult times to be a Jackrabbit and put SDSU on a national stage. I now get to see the South Dakota State football or basketball score on the sports ticker on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPN U when I am at Bravo’s having dinner. And while representing the Jacks on a national level, they have also achieved in the classroom with numerous Academic All-Americans, a number one women’s basketball grade point average and other awards.
It has not been easy, but this group of seniors has earned my respect and the respect of the community. This group has written a new chapter for SDSU. It will be great to see what happens next.