South Dakota leading the charge to support women’s athletics

Published: Mar. 8, 2022 at 5:13 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - It’s only fitting that the two powerhouse women’s basketball teams in South Dakota faced off on International Women’s Day, celebrated March 8.

The Jackrabbits and the Coyotes are driving the growth of women’s athletics in the state, as they champion 13 of the last 14 Summit League Women’s Tournaments.

The University of South Dakota and South Dakota State University have paved the way for the region to become one of the largest supporters of women’s sports in the nation.

2022 marks the 50th year since Title IX was passed by the Federal Government, giving women equality in school sports. Since then, women’s athletics have grown in leaps and bounds.

“The growth that we’ve seen in these activities for female athletes is unbelievable,” said South Dakota High School Athletic Association Assistant Executive Director, Jo Auch.

The trend has spotlighted South Dakota, as young girls admire the success of local collegiate athletes.

“The examples that have been set by these athletes in basketball and the Summit League, kids see that and they love the fact that they can move on and get to where they need to be,” said Auch.

Eight South Dakota natives currently play women’s basketball for SDSU and USD, including some of their respective stars, like Myah Selland of Letcher and Chloe Lamb of Onida.

“So many of these kids have gone to the next level, and that’s a result of the hard work that they put in in the high school days to be able to become a success in the collegiate realms as well,” said Auch.

Young stars like Selland and Lamb are the reason the Summit League Tournament has become one of the most attended in the country.

“We tend to outdraw all Mid-Majors and even some Power Fives, we’ve outdrawn UConn before in their Championship games, so it’s really a testament to the community supporting female sports, supporting these student-athletes, and we’re very proud of the crowds that we can boast on a Tuesday afternoon for a championship for our student-athletes,” said Summit League Deputy Commissioner, Mindee Kay Larsen.

That interest is expected to continue for years to come.

“I think this is a really great time to be a female student-athlete,” said Kay Larsen. “The opportunity, the access is better than ever, and gender equity is on the forefront of everybody’s mind instead of the back burner and that’s been a really important shift to help drive women’s athletics, in general, up to a really high, elite level.”

The attendance for Tuesday’s Women’s Championship was just north of 8,100.

Also, for the first time ever, the NCAA women’s tournament will use the “March Madness” branding. The phrase has been associated with the men’s tournament for years.

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