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Wait ends as Sheyenne readies for inaugural varsity season

Packer Field will be the home site of both West Fargo football teams this season. Photo by David Samson / The Forum 2 / 2

West Fargo - After several years of transition and phase-in models,

prep sports programs at West Fargo Sheyenne High School begin competing at the varsity level this school year.

Players sporting orange and blue jerseys with “Mustangs” logos will have higher visibility. The leap to varsity for Sheyenne’s football and volleyball teams begins Friday.

“Fielding varsity sports this year is going to be rewarding to the people that have spent years planning and seeing this process through,” Sheyenne activities director Ross Richards said. “It doubles the opportunities for kids in West Fargo, and that is a good thing.”

Sheyenne’s football and volleyball teams head west to Bismarck for their first varsity competitions. The football team plays Bismarck Legacy at 7 p.m. Friday and the volleyball team plays Fargo South and Bismarck St. Mary’s at the Bismarck Crossover Tournament.

Sheyenne’s athletic teams will have no seniors this school year as they continue to work through its phase-in process over the next two years. That process culminates with the school becoming a grades 9-12 high school in 2015-16.

The 2014-15 school year also marks the final year all of West Fargo’s freshmen will attend school at Sheyenne.

“The programs here are excited to get to the varsity level, move forward and see what our kids can do,” Richards said. “You have to go through (a transition). You have to start some place, and there is no better time than the present.”

In addition to football and volleyball, Sheyenne athletic programs that will compete at the varsity level this year are: boys and girls cross country, boys and girls swimming and diving, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls track and field, and girls tennis.

Teams that will remain as co-ops with West Fargo High School as of the start of school are: girls golf, boys and girls soccer, boys tennis, boys and girls hockey, wrestling, boys golf, baseball and softball.

Facilities at the school are starting to take shape. The main and auxiliary gymnasiums have finished floors and seating installed with the main gym having a capacity of 2,000 people.

The athletic space also houses four locker rooms, a sports medicine room, and the school’s fitness and weight training room.

What wasn’t part of the bond referendum that allowed Sheyenne to begin its transition as a high school was a stadium for football.

Sheyenne and West Fargo will share the existing public school stadium at the West Fargo High School campus.

“It is a major concern, but at the same time it is what you can make of it,” Richards said of sharing the football facility. “There are challenges. It is a grass field and there are going be nine varsity games on that field this fall and an abundance of subvarsity games on that field this year. … It’s going to take a pounding and how it holds up is largely dependent on the weather. The alternatives are minimal.”

Sheyenne head football coach Jeremy Newton said the absence of seniors has been a challenge associated with the transition.

“We like the team we have this year, and we have a lot of good kids,” Newton said. “They are just young, and we don’t have very many of them yet. So depth is an issue and off course, experience is an issue. We are playing the numbers game, and I think we will until we get the school built up all the way.”

Sheyenne’s enrollment, grades 9-11, that Richards turned in to the North Dakota High School Activities Association last week was 665 students.

Sheyenne girls cross country coach Troy Thorson said he’s enjoyed watching his runners progress from a sub-varsity competition.

“Starting from the ground up is hardest part,” Thorson said. “Looking at the team we have this year, you as a coach, are able to say these are the athletes that will determine what we do this fall and in the future as well. It takes time to build that team culture and team identity that you want to have.”

Tom Mix
Tom Mix is the North Dakota high school sports reporter. He's worked at The Forum for five years. He was the 2013 North Dakota sportswriter of the year, an award that is sponsored by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com  
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