Claudia and Dave Little

Dave Little and his wife Claudia will serve as parade marshals for the 2011 Black Hills State University Swarm Day parade Saturday, Sept. 10.

Dave, who served as a coach and athletic director at BHSU for more than three decades, and Claudia, a former Spearfish elementary teacher and BHSU alum, played an active role in Swarm Day celebrations for many years. It’s fitting that this year they will be leading the parade through downtown Spearfish.

“We’re really excited and surprised to hear that we had been chosen for this honor,” Dave said. “We’ve been involved in a lot of Swarm Day festivities over the years since we first came to Spearfish in 1968.”

Dave says he and Claudia always look forward to the University homecoming events because they know how important it is to the students, faculty, and staff, as well as the entire community.

“Swarm Day is actually, in my view, an opportunity to involve athletes, all the students, alumni, and the community in one event that creates lasting memories,” Dave says.

Looking back, Dave says he has many fond Swarm Week memories but the most unusual Swarm Day that came to mind was in 1996, when Swarm Day was turned into a “snow day.” The entire area was blanketed with more than a foot of snow halting traffic and interrupting the homecoming plans. The parade was cancelled and the game was finally held on Sunday after spending hours cleaning the field and moving snow. Dave is optimistic we’ll have better weather this year (and the forecast sounds like it will be beautiful).

Dave retired from BHSU in 2002 after a career that spanned nearly 35 years. He quickly established himself as one of the state’s most successful collegiate track and field and cross country coaches. His name became synonymous with winning South Dakota-Iowa Conference (SDIC) cross-country and track titles. During his tenure as a Yellow Jacket head coach he led his team to 17 cross country titles and 30 track and field titles in men’s and women’s competition.

His success was not just limited to the field of competition as his enthusiasm and knowledge of subject matter won over classroom students, too. He was twice selected as teacher of the year by the BHSU student senate. He later took on administrative challenges when he served twice as the University’s athletic director.

Though he was successful as a teacher and administrator, it is coaching where his legacy remains. During the 70s and early 80s his men’s teams dominated the league by winning 12 consecutive titles in both cross country and track and field.  For his coaching accomplishments, Dave was Named NAIA District 12 coach of the year 14 times.

The BHSU winter invitational track meet was renamed in honor of Dave Little to permanently honor him for all he’s done for track and field and for the University.

The former coach once calculated that he had driven more than 600,000 miles recruiting and attending competitions as a BHSU coach and spent more than 2 ½ years attending track and field competitions if all his coaching days were added together.

Claudia, who was an elementary teacher in Spearfish for many years, is also a children’s literature author. After marrying Dave and raising two children, she went back to school and had a long successful career in the classroom helping children develop a “love of learning.” She has written two books, Patches, My Mustang, which tells the story of her life growing up on a cattle ranch on the edge of the Badlands, and Mudpies, a beautiful rhyming book about the simple pleasures in life.Claudia earned her master’s degree in education from BHSU in 1978 graduate.

Dave and Claudia Little live in Spearfish and are enjoying their retirement by traveling with friends and family. Their travel often includes active pursuits including extended bike rides, kayaking, and other adventurous activities across the nation and internationally. They have two grown children, Tavis, a 1995 BHSU graduate who now works in law enforcement in the Black Hills; and Carsi, who works in the health care field in the Seattle area.

As they lead the Swarm Day parade through Spearfish this weekend, it’s certain that many former students and athletes will be cheering with gratitude for Dave and Claudia Little and remembering the powerful ways the couple has provided inspiration and encouragement through their years serving as coach, teacher, and mentor.

The couple may have been surprised when asked to serve as Swarm Day parade marshals but it’s not surprising that they were chosen for this honor considering their many years of positively influencing students, athletes, and colleagues.