School of champions

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

South Dakota State University has had multiple teams and individuals win national championships have gone to SDSU.

Forty-nine individual titles and 11 team championships. The most decorated team in school history is the cross country team. The men have run to six championships while the women have won two. With 21 wins, wrestling is the sport with the most individual winners.

Pete Retzlaff is the most decorated individual athlete in school history, with a total of four national titles. He won consecutive championships in shot-put and discus in 1952 and 1953.

SDSU has had two three-time national champions as well. Garry Bently won three-straight outdoor track championships from 1972-74. His first title was in the 1500-meter-run and the next two years he won the 3,000-meter-run.

Chad Lamer won three consecutive wrestling titles from 1994-96. His first two championships were at 177 pounds and his third title was at 190 pounds.

SDSU’s first national champion was the 1953 men’s track team. The way the track team won would be all but impossible now. The team consisted of only five individuals: Pete Retzlaff, Russ Nash, Jack Pearson, Arlin Patrick and John Popowski. Into today’s age of athletic specializing, five individuals capturing a team title is unheard of.

The five athletes piled into coach Jim Emmerich’s car and drove down to Abilene, Texas, for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics small-college championships. Competing against southern teams that had been running for longer than State’s team because of the warmer southern weather, the team did not expect to challenge for the title. With Retzlaff winning the shot-put and discuss and Nash and Pearson going one-two in the mile and Patrick took fifth, then team scored enough points to capture the title over Abilene Christian.

The most recent national championship team was the 2003 women’s basketball team. The team defeated Northern Kentucky, 65-50, for the first women’s basketball title in SDSU history. The whole season went well for the team. Before capturing the national title, the Lady Jacks won their first conference title.

The most thrilling game in the tournament was not the championship game, but rather the semifinal. Stacie Cizek hit a last-second three-point shot to cap a Jacks’ comeback and send the game into overtime. The Jacks used the momentum of the last-second shot to win the game by seven points in overtime.

The semifinal game was the only close game of the tournament for the Jacks. The opening round game against Cal State Bakersfield was a blowout, 83-62.

Melissa Pater of the Jackrabbits was named tournament MVP.

With the recent switch to Division-1 athletics, the women’s basketball national championship could be the last title SDSU sports sees for quite a while.