A split that will revive small town pride
South Heart has separated from the previous co-op with Belfield and Billing County in basketball, keeping both neighboring towns in Class B.
DICKINSON — South Heart is flying solo, separating from the Heart River basketball coop and after their last board meeting will be bringing back their old mascot, the Eagles. Belfield, whose community strongly favored keeping the co-op together, will also be reviving their Bantams mascot, co-oping with Billings County.
Following the decision to break away from the Heart River co-op in February, both South Heart and Belfield will remain in Class B for both the boys and girls program in the 2023-24 season. The historic split will reestablish forgotten pride behind the two old logos and with it may come a rivalry, with both teams being part of the Region 3’s District 5.
Heart River would had moved to Class A, before the split, with the induction of the new three class system, meaning longer travel times and more stiff competition. Either way, the main reason for the separation for South Heart and positive side to it for Belfield, comes back to what is best for the kids.
“We didn’t decide for competition, we just had really high numbers participating in those programs,” Jerome Hoffman, South Heart Activities Director, said. “We want to be able to pride ourselves and get behind them as a community. I think it will bring back some school spirit to have our own basketball team.”
Belfield Superintendent Daren Kurle said that the initial split was unwanted by their community and quickly went to work to keep their co-op with Billings County. Now they are having the chance to bring back their town pride with Bantams mascot and have seen a lot of positives that will benefit their community, but more importantly their students.
“After the dissolution of the basketball co-op with Heart River, we approached the Billings County school board and expressed interest in continuing co-op with them in basketball, so then we created our own co-op for just basketball.” Kurle said. “Initially, we [as a community] didn't receive [the split] very well, but once you process everything and now you have the opportunity created for your kids and your district to be part of something new, while returning to your own roots, Belfield and South Heart are actually in a pretty unique situation.”
Eric Klein, Heart River boys basketball coach since the 2018-19 season, will now lead the South Heart boys. Sara Jo Gieseke, who was an assistant coach for Klein last season, will take the reins for her first varsity coaching position for the South Heart girls basketball team.
Gieseke is eager to teach the fundamentals of basketball, but to also build character in her athletes, whether to prepare them for the collegiate level or to make them into upstanding citizens.
“I am really excited to start our program over here and start fresh and bring back some pride into South Heart,” Hoffman said. “Like I said, she is a very positive leader, she is very knowledgeable in basketball and I think she will take the program and run with it and she will teach our girls to be positive leaders.”
Overseeing the co-op programs will be Jada Maher, the Billings County Activities Director. The boys basketball team will be led by Tammy Grosulak, her first head coach position, with assistant coach Tanner Davidson and the girls will see Reggie Fields as the head coach and Lilly Kelley as his assistant coach.
Belfield decision to return to the Bantams came after giving the kids a say, before having the final four choices voted via Facebook.
The top four were the Cougars, the Bobcats, the Goats and chosen mascot, the Bantams.
“We put it out to our students, we offered our students the opportunity to chime in on what they wanted for their mascot,” Kurle said. “We were more concerned with what our kids actually wanted, then our general public wanted. No offense to them, but this is about the kids.”
While the Eagles will be donning maroon, white and gold and Bantams suited in Purple, white and yellow, the two teams will be offering more kids playing time and see them rediscover pride in their individual towns.