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Pinney and Team South Dakota earn the gold

Kenzy Pinney and her South Dakota NAIG Midget Basketball team brought the gold medal back with them from Denver, CO.

Pinney, a Philip freshman and daughter of Kevin and Kim Pinney, has returned with the South Dakota Midget team from competition in the North American Indigenous Games, July 2-9.

They won all seven of their games; handily taking six by at least 20 points each, and defeating the North Dakota team in double overtime in sudden death play. Though not a starter on the 12-member team, Pinney was the first off of the bench, and played in all seven games. Pinney, only 13, had tried out for the 15-16-year-old midget team because she played varsity basketball last year for Philip, so her skill level is above that of many 13-14-year-olds. The South Dakota NAIG team coach was Jolene One Star.

According to Pinney, there were 36 teams from the United States and 11 representing Canada. The NAIG homepage states that there were 7,500 athletes, and 30,000 supporters and spectators. Competition included 16 different sports.

While there, Pinney stayed with all the other girls in dormitories at the Northwestern Complex. She thought the experience was great, but had one thought about Denver and the games in general - "It was big!" During some free time, the team visited Six Flags Theme Park and the 16th Street Mall. "The mall is a long, long street of different stores. It was kind of scary because there were so many people," said Pinney. The rest of their "free time" was spent watching other South Dakota athletes in competition.

ABC television aired the game's opening ceremony. Pinney said that she didn't know she was going to be on TV, but was clearly seen as her team was framed for a lengthy camera shot. They were notable in their matching warm-ups. Opening exercises included a showing by Billy Mills, a past Olympic gold medalist from South Dakota.

"The worst part of the trip was, the beds, they were little cots." The breakfasts weren't too bad, and the suppers were pretty good," said Pinney. "But, the best part was winning the gold." Pinney is keeping in touch through e-mails with many new friends she met because of the games.

The games have been held every four years for 16 different sport competitions in four age divisions. Because of a new change, they will now be held every two years. Pinney believes the 2008 games will be held in British Columbia, Canada. She encourages local qualifying youth to try-out for the event.