During a spell of perfect weather, with sunny skies and calm winds, fans of the Vermillion Tanagers gathered in the bleachers at the Vermillion High School Veterans Sports Complex to officially kick off a new season of sporting and extra-curricular activities at Vermillion High School.
The Tanagers’ Athletic Booster Club Bash was an opportunity for fans to purchase an evening meal from the concessions stand, become members of the Tanagers Athletic Booster Club, and shop for Tanagers fan clothing and activity cards.
Most importantly, the evening was an opportunity for an up close and personal meeting with Tanagers athletes, musicians, dancers and cheerleaders while learning about the challenges that lie ahead this fall season.
“This is always an exciting time to get together,” said Assistant Principal and VHS Athletic Director Jason Huska, referring to the high school’s outdoor athletic complex that includes a newly improved track, athletic field, bleachers and concession stand “Take a look around at this facility and how great it is. I want to thank our booster club and our school board for allowing us to put a facility like this together.”
Huska also thanked Sanford Vermillion for providing health professional Amy Richardson at Tanagers games to help with student injuries during athletic competitions.
“We just so appreciate her and the ability we have to give our athletes the ability to recover quicker thanks to the technology we have and the equipment we have,” he said. “It’s really exciting.”
“On behalf of our students, our staff, our administration and the school board, we want to thank all of our parents for all of the support and all of the community that follows and encourages our student athletes, our fine arts kids, and everybody that contributes to our schools,” Superintendent Damon Alvey said. “I also want to put out the challenge to all of our community and our staff and our students -- our staff spent two days before school and these last three days working on making Vermillion High School the greatest high school in the state of South Dakota and so we’re going to work with parents and we’re going to work students and our community to make that dream a reality this year.
“Please come see us. Support our kids, our athletes and all of the people that do the activities,” he said.
“It’s been great to get to know the students as they’re coming back,” said John Frey, the new principal at Vermillion High School. “It’s been a blast to have them back in the building. I’m thrilled to be back in Vermillion for the first time in 20-some-odd years and it’s been really good.
“I’m looking forward to my role in all of this and helping the district achieve the goal of not only the best high school in the state of South Dakota but the best darn school district in the state of South Dakota.
“I’m really proud to be here and I’m really proud of the group of kids we have walking the halls of our building and you should, too.”
The bash provided the coaches of various fall activities to talk a bit about the upcoming season and the outlook for their teams before individually introducing team members to the audience.
“This is our third year of having cheer here at Vermillion High,” said Linda Alvey, the cheerleading coach. “Thank you to the past fans and present fans for supporting our cheerleaders. It has been so gratifying and overwhelming.”
She told the audience, made up of both student and adult Tanagers supporters, that a quiet gym is a losing gym.
“I want to make sure that we are loud and proud for our Tanagers this season,” Linda Alvey said before the cheerleaders introduced themselves.
Shana Cerny is in her fifth year of coaching the Tanagers’ Dance Inferno dance team.
“We traveled to Storm Lake, Iowa this summer and the girls have a lot of fun new routines that we brought back home, one of which you will get to see tonight.”
Girls’ and Boys’ Cross Country
Kelly Fischbach, coach of the Tanagers girls’ and boys’ cross country teams, said there are 27 kids currently out for cross country.
“We are very ‘boy heavy’ on our team. The boys are the defending Class A state runners-up and their goal is to move up one spot,” she said. “We’ve got a nice, core group of guys who are running in that (leadership) top spot and we’ve got some young kids who are looking to push for that as well.
“We are kind of the traveling Tanagers -- we do not have a home meet this year,” Fischbach said,”but we will open up next Friday (Aug. 30) at the Beresford Invitational, which is the first meet in the entire state. We will also run in Beresford for the region meet so that’s a good chance to get that course under our belts.”
“We’ve had two invites so far,” Tanager golf coach Kirk Hogen told the booster bash crowd. “On Monday it was at West Central with 11 teams and we were third there with two individual medals.”
Last Wednesday the team competed in an invitational at Dakota Valley and placed second, with three team members receiving individual medals.
“Our next big challenge will be coming up Monday,” Hogen said. “We have another big invite up at Dell Rapids. We’re getting off to a fairly decent start.”
Stacey Baedke, who is in her fourth year coaching the Tanagers varsity softball team, said her team’s first game was set for Sunday (Aug. 25) in Sioux Falls.
“We have two games -- we play Tea and Pipestone and after that we continue playing Sundays for about six weeks and then we have our state tournament the first weekend in October,” she said.
“I have 65 members in the band this year,” said VHS Instrumental Music Instructor Garret Olson. “About a third of them are in other activities as well as band, so if it ever looks like our pep band is a little small, it’s because they’re probably doing other activities.
“We’ll be playing as a pep band and will be playing at halftimes as well,” he said.
“We have some really huge goals this year that we’re looking forward to accomplishing,” said head volleyball coach Jodi Zeller. “We’re hoping to put quite a few more wins in the win category and they’ve been working really hard. We’ve been practicing since last week.
“We just finished with probably our best practice yet, so we’re getting ready.”
The team’s first match was Tuesday, Aug. 27 against West Central in the VHS gym.
“We have seven home games. Come see us when you get a chance, because we promise we’re going to be fun to watch,” she said.
The Tanagers girls soccer team this year is made up of athletes in grades 7 through 12, said coach Shannon Fitzsimmons.
“We have 40 girls … we started Aug. 5 so we’ve been playing for a few weeks now and I’m just so fortunate to have such fun, positive and hard-working girls,” she said. “Going to practice each day is so exciting -- to see them want to get better and want to improve and have fun being around each other.
“We remind each other why we’re out there,” Fitzsimmons said. “It’s because we like playing soccer, so it’s really fun to be around these girls.”
The team’s schedule has so far been taking them out of town, but the coach said her players will be competing on the VHS soccer field throughout September.
“We’d love to have you come and support us,” she said. “We were able to make it to the semi-finals last year and we’d like to have another solid season for all of you.”
“Last year we finished in the state semi-finals,” head boys’ soccer coach Curt Nelson told the Booster Bash audience. “We lost to the champions, Tea, and we had a really good performance. We graduated about eight seniors and we’re looking to get back to that state semi-final and hopefully further this year.”
The Tanagers opened their season with a home game at the Veterans Sports Complex.
“Our first game we won 2-1 against James Valley Christian, so that was a really great victory in a close game and then last night (Aug. 22) we tied Harrisburg 3-3,” he said. “It was a really great game, back and forth, so we’re looking to build off of those two performances as we progress through the season.”
Andy Homan encouraged Tanagers fans to schedule a holiday weekend in the Black Hills, as the Vermillion football team’s first game is Friday, Aug. 30 in Belle Fourche.
“Our first home game will be the following Friday versus Tea in the Dome,” he said. “Thanks for coming out tonight