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'I love to play': Sletto suiting up for JHS football, volleyball

Sara Sletto is one of two girls competing for the Jamestown High School football teams. Sletto also competes for the JHS volleyball team.

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Sara Sletto runs in the pack of Blue Jays approaching a team huddle.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN — Sara Sletto might have gotten a few confused looks when she rolled up to the Jamestown High School football team's first practice in full pads.

Sletto, a junior at Jamestown High School, is the first girl in head football coach Bill Nelson's eight years to make the varsity football roster.

As of Sept. 6, Sletto has been tagged as the Jays' starting kicker.

"I've always loved soccer," Sletto said. "I knew that last year's kickers were graduating, so I've questioned if it was similar or if I'd be good at it. It was in the back of my head starting last year, but our athletic director mentioned to me at lunch one day and from there I started talking to coach Nelson."

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Sletto has been a varsity starter for the JHS girls soccer team since her middle school days. As an eighth grader, she knocked in one goal. As a freshman, Sletto knocked in four goals and four assists for 8 total points.

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Sletto capped off her sophomore soccer season with just one goal. She did not record any assists but had an aggressive presence in the backfield to help Olivia Sorlie to four shutouts.

The Jays finished the 2022 WDA season at 8-6, giving them the fourth seed heading into the West Region. The Jays fell 1-0 to Mandan in the WDA tournament state-qualifying game.

Around the time the soccer season ended, Sletto was also talking to Nelson about the upcoming fall.

"She reached out to me back in May," Nelson said. "We got her some footballs and started working on some things. She's got a really good swing-through. She has worked a lot on it. She's tough, and she's done well."

Sletto got her first shot at real action on Aug. 26 against Grand Forks Red River. Sletto was 2-for-2 in terms of PATs against the Roughriders. One week later against Turtle Mountain, Sletto put eight PATs through the uprights.

"I was so nervous and a lot of my teammates knew," Sletto said of her first time out on the field. "I thought I would be nervous the whole game but that quickly changed, and all I wanted to do was go back on the field after the boys scored. I was so excited."

Sletto also handled kick-off duties.

She had a chance at a third PAT against Red River but a botched snap resulted in a tackle on Sletto and a failed Blue Jay 2-point conversion.

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"I always thought getting tackled would hurt a lot more than it did," Sletto said. "It didn’t hurt, but that might have been the adrenaline."

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Sara Sletto runs some sprints during football practice on Erstad Field at Jamestown High School.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

After two weeks of action, Nelson said the coaching staff will continue to work with Sletto on backing up her stride to get a little more run into each kick. The head coach said Sletto will also be informed as to what to do when faced with a botched snap or bad hold.

"I've told her, it's all about accuracy," Nelson said. "She puts the ball where it needs to get put. We're not worried about her going out of bounds or kicking in the middle. She puts it in the right spot and now we've just got to continue to work on depth."

Sletto said the football practices are more position specific than she is used to but added that everything works together toward the end of a practice session.

In her sect of practices this week, Sletto said she will be working on adding distance and height to kickoffs. She is also going to work on speeding up her timing on field goals.

In addition to working with the special teams coaches, Sletto said she and the team lift and condition around two days a week, along with a pool workout on Saturdays after the games on Friday night.

"Some of the boys were confused at first, but hopefully most of them are used to it now," Sletto said. "It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but now it’s starting to become a normal part of my day. The football program is like one big family, and the coaches are always there to help."

A few times a week, Sletto turns in the pads, cleats and helmet for spandex and knee pads as the junior still suits up for the JHS volleyball team.

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"I still love playing volleyball," Sletto said. "The only reason I’m playing both is the willingness from both sides to make it work and keep me at as much of the games and practices as possible."

"The drawbacks of playing both are overlapping practices but staying active for most of the day is the most rewarding part," she said.

As of Sept. 1, there aren't many overlaps between the two sports since volleyball doesn't have any Friday night games this season and there are only a few Saturday games on the schedule.

While it is not typical for a high school athlete to be competing in two different sports across gender lines, Sletto said everyone on the coaching staffs has been very supportive of the other sport and the priorities that come with it.

"The coaches are really great about working around both schedules," Sletto said. "They both know there will be some overlaps and we talk about what is expected beforehand so that everyone is on the same page."

Sletto said her coaches always encourage her to stay on top of her academics and get extra help when needed. It also helps that the junior has her math and science teachers on the football team coaching staff. Her personal finance instructor also doubles as an assistant coach to the volleyball team.

"The volleyball coaches are more than supportive of this opportunity and the football coaches are very flexible with volleyball priorities," Sletto said. "I love being around all my teammates. (Everybody) keeps me busy and focused on the sports I love to play."

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Sara Sletto, standout athlete for Jamestown High School, has joined the football team this year with plans to be a place kicker.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Katie Ringer is a sports reporter for the Jamestown Sun. Katie joined the Sun staff in the summer of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with a degree in journalism. She can be reached by email at kringer@jamestownsun.com or by phone at 701-952-8460.
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