The parents say it’s the kids.
The kids say it’s the parents.
But obviously, it’s both.
Meaghan, Devon, Danielle and Aidan Sievers have the dreams and aspirations that have brought them to national attention in athletics and in life.
Dan and Karen Sievers, their parents, have devoted their lives to making their children’s dreams come true. That devotion has meant hours on the road — mile and mile after mile after mile traveling to practices and meets, making them the ultimate fans and support system.
They’ve done it from their home on Lake Cochrane near Clear Lake. Living, working and going to school in a small town — Clear Lake’s population is about 1,500 residents — means the advantages of a close-knit community.
It also meant hours of windshield time so Meaghan and Danielle could train for gymnastics in Sioux Falls and Devon for wrestling in Beresford. Now, it means monthly trips to Florida, where Aidan is expanding on already-impressive wakeboarding skills.
“I’m super grateful that they are so invested and so loving,” said 14-year-old Aidan, who is completing eighth grade in the Deuel School District.
Added Danielle: “None of my siblings and I would be able to accomplish what we have without my parents and what they have given up. We are blessed and fortunate.”
Dan and Karen Sievers don’t consider it as “giving up” anything, however. They see their parental roles as givers.
“We just decided to be positive, and if they wanted it that bad, we would figure it out,” Dan Sievers said.
The elder Sievers met after the Canova school closed when Karen was in seventh grade. She started school in Howard, where Dan was raised. They both grew up on family farms; he now is a banker, and she is a physical therapist.
Meaghan, now a fourth-year student at the University of South Dakota Sanford School of Medicine in Sioux Falls, led her siblings in athletics. She was a gymnast in middle school when the Deuel school team defeated longtime rival Madison — then the Goliath of gymnastics — in the state meet.
Meaghan took part in both school and club gymnastics through her freshman year. That’s when Iowa State University expressed an interest in having her compete for its team. To do that, though, meant Meaghan would need much more intensive practices and competitions. She decided to focus on club gymnastics, joining All American Gymnastics Academy in Sioux Falls. Danielle, also a gymnast, joined her older sister on the commutes.
That’s when the almost-daily trips to and from Sioux Falls began — 90 minutes one way. Their school day would end early, and homework was done in the car.
“Karen packed lunches so they would be able to eat healthy,” Dan said.
“We also had a lot of support from friends and family,” Karen said. “I have several sisters in Sioux Falls, and they could spend the night there, and they would get them to practice.”
Karen then worked two days a week. The girls left school at 11:30 a.m. When Dan needed to travel to Sioux Falls, he would take a longer lunch hour to get the girls there and then return to work. Sometimes, he was able to stay in Sioux Falls and make customer visits.
“We’d leave (the house) at 7:30 in the morning and not get back together again until 10:15 at night,” Karen said.
The Sievers put 65,000 miles a year on their vehicles, traveling to gymnastics practices and competition.
But wait — there’s more!
That total only includes the miles of gymnastics travel. Devon followed in his father’s footsteps and found his passion in wrestling. Karen, by the way, played basketball and was, her husband said, a track star.
“We drove down to Beresford every day for practice in addition to high school practices,” Dan said. “He ended up having a great high school career, placing three times at state.”
Devon, now a student at the Midwestern University School of Optometry in Glendale, Arizona, wrestled for South Dakota State University. Like his two sisters, he graduated from Deuel High School as class valedictorian.
The time on the road meant missing out on typical high school activities like prom. Competing in other sports like volleyball would mean risking injuries that would curtail gymnastics practice.
“Me and my family, we all decided if we wanted to achieve our goals of competing at the collegiate level, we’d be OK with missing out on the so-called normal high school experience because we wanted to accomplish and work hard toward our goals,” Danielle said.
Danielle is completing her sophomore year at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where she was the All-Big 12 selection in vault. She also was a regular season All-American on vault, then achieved All-American status on floor during nationals. So far, she’s a three-time individual All-American and two-time national champion with the Sooners.
OU’s six women’s gymnastics national titles are tied with Utah for the most over a nine-year span in NCAA history. Danielle and her teammates won the second national title in a row in April.
For years, Aidan rode along on the trips to Sioux Falls, making him a certified member of the Million-Mile Club, his father joked. Now, it’s his time to focus on what he loves. While he’s playing golf this spring, he has been found on the basketball court and was a state champion AAU wrestler, his happiness is found on the water.
In wakeboarding, a motorboat tows the rider, his feet in a board with bindings, in its wake and especially up off the crest. The rider also performs midair tricks.
Aidan calls it exhilarating. The sport resembles the maneuvers his sisters perform in gymnastics except on water, he said. Devon introduced wakeboarding to the Sievers family, and after watching his older brother, 10-year-old Aidan wanted to attempt it too. Aidan enjoyed it so much that his parents found a professional wakeboarder near Milwaukee and gave him lessons as a Christmas present.
“It combines flipping and stuff, and that’s really fun to me,” Aidan said. “Once I did my first competition, and I did well against some really good people, it turned the tides for me.”
He took first place in an open competition that year, competing against wakeboarders ranging in age from 12 to 46.
Aidan has won a national wakeboarding competition and placed third in an international competition in Brazil. He has been chosen to compete on Team USA for the second time and has picked up sponsors. Aidan belongs to the Freedom Wake Park Club in Florida; owner Jaysin Smith is the Team USA coach.
Aidan spends a week in Florida every month, and yes, that generally means another long car trip with his father at the wheel. Two years ago, when Danielle was competing in club events, the Sievers were able to combine her meets in Florida with Aidan’s practice.
The Sievers parents are faithful fans, this year making it to all Danielle’s gymnastics meets and Aidan’s wakeboarding competitions. That meant a rush when Aidan’s invitation to compete in Brazil arrived.
“We were scrambling to get a passport for Aidan,” Karen said. “We were driving to Danielle’s gymnastics meet in Oklahoma, and we had Dan’s friends send us all of our information.”
It also meant getting a last-minute Covid vaccination at a Walmart in St. George, Utah, where the Sievers had traveled for a wakeboarding competition.
The Sievers remember one weekend when they traveled to Ames, Iowa, to see Meaghan compete, then left at 9 p.m. and drove to Gettysburg, South Dakota, arriving at 10 a.m. Saturday for Devon’s wrestling meets. Ames and Gettysburg are 520 miles apart.
“We’re happy for their successes, and we support them,” Dan said. “But it isn’t always rainbows and purple ponies, and when it isn’t, we want to be there to cheer them up and cheer them on.”
Such support means the world, Danielle said.
“Oh my gosh, it means so much,” she said. “When I get to see them every single weekend, they’re there cheering on me and the team, offering support in and out of gym, it’s indescribable that they’re able and willing to come watch.”
Aidan hopes to someday participate in the pro wakeboarding tour. When he does, he knows his parents will be in the stands watching.
“I’m super grateful that they are so invested and so loving,” he said.