Parkston looks to continue its athletic momentum with new facilities – Mitchell Republic

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story is the second in a series of stories examining offseason sports training in small-town South Dakota. 

PARKSTON, S.D. — Summer isn’t much of a break for many of the Parkston High School student athletes.

Several boys arrive at 6 a.m. for offseason workouts, work construction jobs throughout the day, then play in baseball games in the evening.

This particular Thursday morning comes hours after many of them returned from Wagner late the previous night for an American Legion baseball game.

They pile into the school’s temporary weight room — the old wrestling room — with thoughts of defending their 2023 state football championship on the forefront of their minds.

“We have a pretty good work ethic around here,” senior Kaden Holzbauer said. “Everybody had dreams as a little kid, and now it’s their time. So everybody just wants to get in here and work to achieve what we conquered last year.”

There’s plenty of energy across the team, in part due to the momentum of a football championship, and in part because of the impending facility upgrades.

The school is building a state-of-the-art, $6.3 million addition to the high school that includes a multi-use gym, a sparkling new weight room and a wrestling room that holds two mats.

On track to be completed by the start of the fall sports season in August, the new facilities will help the football team, and the busy students in other sports, focus less on logistics and more on pursuing state championships.

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Senior Kolter Kramer works out in Parkston High School’s temporary weight room on Thursday, June 20, 2024.

Jacob Nielson / Mitchell Republic

Last year, Parkston not only shined in football, but was competitive in several other sports. It’s accomplishments came with a weight room Grave described as “basically a storage hallway,” a training room that quite literally was a storage room, and two gyms to work with.

That’s all a thing of the past.

“It’s going to be awesome,” senior Carter Sommer said. “It’s just going to influence people like us athletes to just go and get better every single day even more.”

A third gym eases the burden of coaches and athletes schedule-wise, especially in the winter, when, according to superintendent Patrick Mikkonen, some middle school students had to start practice as early as 5:30 a.m. because that was the only time available.

Per athletic director Adam Fischer, the multi-use gym isn’t built to host events, but to always be a practice area. While activities and official practices are taking place in the main gym, athletes participating in other sports can use the new gym to train on their own time. Lines for volleyball, basketball and pickleball will be painted on the court, and batting cages will also be available.

“All teams and the community will have access to it,” Fischer said. “Really that was our vision from the beginning.”

“You’re trying to maximize the opportunity for the space to be efficient for everybody, not just for now,” Grave added. “You’re not putting a Band-Aid on something. You’re trying to make it for the future where everybody can thrive and be successful.”

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Parkston High School’s new multi-use gym as photographed on Thursday, June 28, 2024.

Jacob Nielson / Mitchell Republic

Grave is involved in the day-to-day progress of his students, both as the head football coach and the physical education teacher for grades 7-12. Communication is paramount, and during summer workouts with his football players, for instance, he asks individuals how their bodies are feeling, and modifies workouts based on their needs.

The new facility will only enhance his ability to do his job. His new office will be positioned between the weight room and the gym, with windows on two walls allowing him to see all the action.

“I can see what’s going on in both areas, instead of having to go out of the room, lose track of students, go see another area and so forth,” Grave said.

This design, and other aspects to the new facility, were intentional. The Parkston coaches and administrators had the creative freedom to build it in a way that would best fit the school’s needs.

The new weight room is attached to the new gym, with retractable curtains to divide the two spaces. The training Grave has designed is meant to build all-around athletes, and requires a variety of workouts. The space allows for that, with easy access between the gym and weight room, and plenty of room to fit in different types of drills.

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Parkston High School’s new weight room as photographed on Thursday, June 21, 2024.

Jacob Nielson / Mitchell Republic

Six squat racks are pressed against the north side of the weight room, with artificial green turf laying across the middle of it, and space for other equipment such as dumbbells and box jumps set to be stationed along the sides.

“We kind of left that middle area a little more open, so we can move around and not feel on top of each other,” Grave said. “Everybody can kind of do their own thing and have their own room, have their own power-lifting platform, have their spot rack, and you have plenty of space that you don’t have to worry about interfering with anybody else’s workout.”

The equipment itself was even meticulously researched. Parkston looked at what other schools in the state had purchased, and hired Push Pedal Pull, an equipment company based in Sioux Falls, to supply the weight room contents.

“Sioux Falls Jefferson had probably the newest weight room at the time, so we figured out who they had worked with, and they came highly recommended,” athletic director Adam Fischer said.

The people at Parkston recognize the project is a big investment. But they believe it’s one that will have a lasting impact.

“It brings excitement,” Grave said. “And these seniors and these young kids coming out, they’ll be able to have a nice facility, for the next 20 to 50 years, whatever it is.”


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