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Press’ top 5 in 2013: Happiness, heartbreak fill top 5 spots in southwest North Dakota

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By Royal McGregor and Meaghan MacDonald

The Dickinson Press

In the southwestern North Dakota, the sporting community experienced happiness and heartbreaks.

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The Dickinson Press sports editor Royal McGregor and The Press sports reporter Meaghan MacDonald compiled a top five list of events from 2013.

Biesiot resigns

as DSU head football coach after 38 seasons It was a tough season for the Dickinson State football team physically and emotionally.

The Blue Hawks finished out their final season in the Frontier Conference 1-11 with its only win coming from a nonconference matchup against the University of Jamestown and to make things more difficult, legendary head coach Hank Biesiot resigned after 38 years with the program.

“I think the guys who are going to coach and running the program are going to do a great job,” Biesiot said in a Press article on Nov. 22. “There’s continuity that was struck up this year. I think that is going to be good going into a fresh start in a new conference.”

Biesiot came to DSU in 1972 as a defensive coordinator and was named the head coach in 1976. DSU compiled a remarkable 258-122-1 record, won 17 conference championships and made the NAIA playoffs 15 times.

Biesiot has not just been a staple of the Dickinson Community, but for college football on the national stage as well. In 2003, he became the second coach in NAIA history to reach 200 wins and in 2006 Biesiot was the 55th head coach — and first in DSU history — to be inducted into the NAIA Coaching Hall of Fame.

Blue Hawks football was built on a foundation of pride and tradition which is something Biesiot took seriously and instilled in every player he coached. With that said, it was fitting one of his former players and assistant coaches took over as head coach. Pete Stanton was named DSU’s 15th head coach on Dec. 3.

Stanton spent the past 14 years as an assistant football coach for the defense and oversaw the linebackers and helped the Blue Hawks to seven conference championships and seven playoff appearances.

Stanton was a 1987 graduate of DSU and was a safety under Biesiot. His senior year he was named a first-team NAIA all-American and received the Harry J. Wienbergen award for outstanding male student-athlete.

His coaching successes weren’t just limited to football. Stanton was also the head coach for the men’s and women’s track and field teams and led the men to three consecutive NAIA outdoor titles and finished runner-up five times.

The 2013 season was a forgetful one for the Blue Hawks, but with a new coach and the team starting its first season in the North Star Athletics Association, Stanton is hoping 2014 will be memorable.

“When (the players) leave this program, I want it to be for them one of the best experiences that they’ve had,” Stanton said in a Press article on Dec. 4. “It’s not all about the football part of it, that they’d be good students, they be good people, they’re good in the classroom, they’re good in the community and good representation of Dickinson State everywhere. That’s what my goal is going to be for those student athletes.”

DSU Moore passes away in car accident

On July 10, the Dickinson State women’s basketball was forever changed.

Janae Moore — a 5-foot-11 forward — passed away in a one-vehicle accident near her hometown of Sidney, Mont.

“Janae was that girl who could always make you smile no matter what,” DSU sophomore point guard Jordyn Bender said in a Press article on July 10. “She was always smiling, always laughing. She was not only a great teammate, but a great leader and great friend to all of us.

“It was pretty hard for all of us that we lost a piece of our family today.”

Moore finished her sophomore season with the Blue Hawks leading the team with 13.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game.

Though Moore was a standout for DSU, she was always involved in the Dickinson and Sidney communities.

“She was very involved,” DSU athletic director Tim Daniel said in a Press article on July 10. “She was a TR (Theodore Roosevelt honors) student and one of our campus leaders. She was one of the most well-liked people on campus. It’s always hard when you lose somebody who is such a positive role model.”

The route teams can take after a tragedy are either to fold or play better than ever.

DSU choose the latter.

The Blue Hawks made it apparent in the first game of the season against the University of Manitoba with Moore’s family in attendance. Once the final second ran off the clock, senior guard Dawne Degel brought the ball over to Moore’s family.

“Every time you sink a shot it’s all you can think about, that she was there,” Degel said in a Press article on Oct. 20.

In the team’s first 16 games, the Blue Hawks are 11-5. DSU’s win total has already surpassed last year’s — even before Frontier Conference began.

DSU is on a mission. The mission is not to disappoint Moore, because the Blue Hawks know she’s watching every game.

“I knew coming back without Janae was going to be really weird because she was one of my best friends,” DSU senior guard Mariah Duran said in a Press article on Nov 28. “Just like little things like goofing off before practice, at first it was very strange because everybody was still processing … I think everybody was coming in thinking what do we do? She was a great player and a great leader, she also helped me a lot with being able to lead. We all miss her very much.”

DHS breaks streak to win state title After coming in runner-up for the previous four seasons, the Dickinson High gymnastics ended the streak and won a state team championship in 2013.

The Midgets posted a score of 149.917, which beat runner-up Minot by 4.5 points. Minot came into the state meet as the four-time defending state champion.

“We had easily the best meet of the year,” Dickinson head coach Kent Van Ells said in a Press article on Feb. 23. “What a time to do it.”

Dickinson had a recipe for success — five gymnastics, which had the ability to score 36 points or higher.

The Midgets’ magic five as Van Ells called were Chantal Urlacher, Mckenzie Kostelecky, Mikaela Kessel, Keana Kudrna and Acacia Fossum — who won her third consecutive individual all-around state title the day after winning a team title.

“After the past couple years when we came up second, we were kind of bummed on individual day,” Fossum said in a Press article on Feb. 24. “This year it really showed that we had that extra confidence.”

Though not all five were healthy throughout the entire year. Fossum was dealing with a nagging pulled quad muscle throughout a majority of the season, while Kessel suffered a concussion after falling on the uneven bars.

With Fossum and Kessel — the team’s top two all-around gymnasts — dealing with injuries, Urlacher, Kostelecky and Kudrna had to pick up the slack. And the trio did. The Midgets won the Fargo Davies Invite and came in runner-up at the Gym-O-Rama meet in Rapid City, S.D. The only team to beat Dickinson in the Gym-O-Rama meet was Rapid City Central — which finished the season winning its second straight state title.

Not only did Fossum win an all-around state title, but four teammates joined her at the podium. Urlacher and Kudrna finished in a tie for sixth place, while Mikaela Kessel took ninth and Kostelecky was 12th.

Urlacher and Kostelecky began their high school gymnastic careers as seventh-graders winning a state championship closed out their senior years with the same title.

“I felt that I went out the way that I needed to and more,” Urlacher said in a Press article on Feb. 24. “I wanted to go out with a bang is what I kept telling everybody. I exceeded felt like I exceeded mine and everyone else’s expectations.

“When we heard that we tied right after the meet, our faces were both beaming with a smile. It was exciting just to be able to stand up there with a teammate and a teammate that I’m really close to.”

Region 7 takes next step in evolution When conducting an experiment, a scientist uses a small sample.

Region 7 is the guinea pig for what the North Dakota High School Activities Association is trying out on Class B schools.

Instead of playing in a District 13 and 14 tournaments for volleyball and basketball, the 12 Region 7 teams are playing in one tournament to decide a state champion.

The district tournament — which spans over the course of three days — only eliminated four teams from the Region 7 Tournament. Four teams would be eliminated on the first night of the Region 7 Tournament in the new format.

“It puts a little more emphasis on those super-regional games,” Bowman County head boys basketball coach Steve Shahan said. “When your district gets down to just six teams and you only have five district games, that’s a pretty thin sample for setting up a tournament. Getting those 11 games and see the competition and see where you are at should give us a better representation on where the teams are at. It also provides the team toward the bottom an opportunity to get hot and make a run. I really think there is the best of both worlds.”

The experiment has already been tested on volleyball. The volleyball tournament gave life to the Cinderella No. 8-seed Heart River, who defeated Bowman County in the opening round on Nov. 8 and top-ranked Beach in the quarterfinals on Nov. 11. The Cougars lost in four sets to the eventual Region 7 champions Beulah in the semifinals.

“I think even before the game against Beach on Tuesday (Nov. 5), we have been playing a little better each time,” Heart River head volleyball coach Hope Volesky said in a Press article on Nov. 11. “We were just feeding off that and just knowing we took them to five last week that we could do it this week.

“We knew coming in that if we even let up for one minute. That could be the game. We definitely had our down moments, but we were able to pick ourselves back up pretty quickly.”

The evolution of Region 7 is most apparent in boys basketball. Out of the 13 of top 20 scorers in Region 7 last year graduated — including Dickinson Trinity’s Jacob Volk and Beulah’s Trevor Zacher, who were Mr. Basketball finalists.

Region 7 is wide open for any of the 12 teams. The only team in Region 7 with an undefeated is New England (5-0). The Tigers beat Trinity 63-51 on Dec. 14 for the first time since 1997.

“That’s the first time this year that I think we’ve gotten together and played real hard,” New England head coach Luke Powers said in a Press article on Dec. 14. “We weren’t necessarily focused on what the score was through the course of the game. We wanted to outrebound them and out hustle on loose balls.”

Trinity and Beulah — the two teams which played in last year’s Region 7 championship in front a packed Knights of Columbus Activities Center — are a combined 6-6. The Titans are the defending Region 7 champions and finished fifth in the 2013 state tournament.

Though a majority of the coaches in Region 7 are embracing the new playoff format, it’s expected some coaches are reluctant of the change.

“It’s hard to say when you haven’t experienced it yet,” Trinity head girls basketball coach Alysia Barman said. “You definitely have to show up every single night. You got to try and prepare yourself to finish with the highest seed possible. It’s going to be different not having the first district tournament games. It’s going to be a fun regional, because of the quality teams. It will be easier to see the pros and cons after we live through it a year.”

Bygate makes New Zealand national team Jess Bygate is a shining example of how hard work pays off.

In early August, the 6-foot-1 senior forward for Dickinson State found out she was the newest addition to the New Zealand national basketball team and started right away, facing off against the No. 2-ranked Australian national team.

The road to Bygate’s dream initially wasn’t clear. The 21 players needed for the roster were already chosen for the three-day trials but on Aug. 2, she received a call saying she was invited to participate and left immediately for New Zealand. Just days later, Bygate’s childhood dream of making the team was finally a reality.

“It was pretty exciting, because I didn’t really know what my chances were of making the team,” Bygate said in a press article on Aug. 8. “It’s really exciting to get this opportunity.”

New Zealand and Australia played in the FIBA Oceanaic Championship Aug. 14 and 18 in Auckland, New Zealand and Canberra, Australia. The Australian Opals won both games 66-50 and 84-66, respectively. Bygate went 0-3 and had one assist and one rebound in the first game and picked up another rebound in the second game.

Despite the two losses, being a part of the national team means everything to Bygate and the first two games against Australia were stepping stones on her way to becoming a starter for the team.

Bygate is currently the starting center for the Blue Hawks and has been playing a huge role in the team’s successful season. After finishing 8-20 last season, DSU is currently 11-5 and fourth in the Frontier Conference. Bygate is averaging 11.3 points and eight rebounds per game and is making 41 percent of her shots. She is tied for 16th in the nation in total rebounds with 120.

“When I pulled Jess out in the last game on Monday, I pulled her off the court and I told everyone on the bench to move, so Jess could sit by me,” DSU head women’s basketball coach Mark Graupe said in a Press article on Nov. 2. “I told Jess she is too unselfish. She is one of the best posts in the conference. A lot of stuff that I’m designing goes into her. She catching the ball and sometimes she’s thinking pass first and score second. She’s a great player and she’s someone that we are going to counting on the entire season.”