By Dan Bechtold
When Morgan Hammerbeck was in the 5th grade she watched Macey Miller win the Spirit of Su award.
“I told my mom I wanted to win that award when I am older,” she explained.
Sara Hammerbeck looked at her daughter and said: “Are you sure, that is really a big award. You will have to work really really hard.”
So last Tuesday was a surreal day for the Winner senior basketball player. Draped in a star quilt and holding the trophy was a dream come true for Hammerbeck.
The all state basketball player was named the Class A girls Spirit of Su honoree.
Normally, this award is presented at the state basketball tournament. However, due to COVID-19 the Lady Warriors were not able to play in the state tournament.
They had worked their way to another undefeated season and were all set to play in back to back state tournaments to defend their title.
But it never happened.
Hammerbeck is only the second basketball play in Winner history to receive this coveted honor. In 2011, Kelly Norrid Curtis was named the Spirit of Su winner.
The presentation of the award was held in Winner May 12 in front of her family, coaches and a few friends.
John Krogstrand of the South Dakota High School Activities Association came to Winner to make the presentation.
The award was truly a surprise to the athlete.
Hammerbeck had been told by her coach to to come to Winner for a picture with the state basketball plaque. “I did not think it would be this,” she said.
Coach Larry Aaker says this is a very special honor. “What Dr. Krogstrand read about academics, excellence, athletic ability all of them fit Morgan to a T,” said her coach.
“You could not find a better representative for this award,” he said.
Aaker noted even though it was not given at the state meet it is still special.
“I am still glad that all six Spirit of Su winners could be recognized. What a better way to top off a senior year,” added Aaker.
He noted that unfortunately her teammates were not able to celebrate with Morgan. “I know they are very proud of her and she is very deserving.”
Hammerbeck has lettered 13 times for the Lady Warriors and was selected to multiple all state first teams in volleyball and basketball.
Hammerbeck has been a phenomenal leader in her community and school serving as student council president and vice president in addition to working on behalf of St. Jude’s, the Salvation Army and the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The award winner plans to play basketball at Black Hills State University. She plans to major in business.
The senior says it is still a bummer that the team was not able to play for a state title. “This is the best possible outcome I could have individually. I am thankful for all the opportunities I have been given,” she said.
The Spirit of Su award has been bestowed on deserving athletes each year at the state basketball championships since 1994, following SuAnne’s death in an automobile accident on her way to the Miss Basketball banquet following her senior year.
The Spirit of Su award recognizes excellence in academics, athletics, leadership and community service among seniors playing at state tournaments.
The quilts awarded to each honoree include colors and symbolism of all races of people living together in beautiful harmony as was SuAnne’s dream.
The quilts and plaque were presented on behalf of the Visions of SuAnne Foundation.