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Area prep sports ADs tackle mounting postponements and weather challenges this spring

As teams do all they can to get games and competitions in, activities directors are hopeful that this week is the one where Mother Nature finally turns the corner

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The field at Jack Brown Stadium was covered with snow as of Tuesday, April 19, 2022.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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FARGO — Sometimes when one starts seeing grass is the same moment the second coming of winter arrives. Then the third coming. And the fourth. And maybe finally, the fifth.

Combine the snow with typical springtime rain, North Dakota wind gusts, and even the occasional tornado warning, and what you get is area sports teams doing all they can to reschedule games or meets and find a clear surface to compete on.

Surely, a logistical nightmare for area activities directors, who are hopeful that this week is the one where Mother Nature finally turns the corner.

“We’ve been in kind of a pattern here with the pandemic where there’s been a lot of unknowns,” said Fargo South activities coordinator Mike Beaton. “And this has just kind of continued that pattern of unknown and when we’re going to be able to do things. So it’s kind of similar to what we’ve been doing here for the past couple of springs, but we’re hoping to get things in as the weather changes.”

Not only is squeezing in events in such a short time frame a priority, but keeping student-athletes safe from injury is also an aspect ADs need to consider.

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“The biggest thing is the season getting compressed into a shorter and shorter period of time,” Beaton said. “That’s what we’re running into right now. We’re getting pushed into almost May starting next week and we’re trying to get — specifically — our conference games and contests in before we get to region tournaments. That’s the hardest part, the seasons getting compressed.

“Then, you want to keep the kids safe, as well. With our baseball kids, we don’t want their arms being overworked in a short period of time. We have rules in place to help with some of those things, but we don’t want anybody to get hurt either due to the fact we’re trying to push so many games into a small time frame.”

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Members of the Northern Cass baseball team attach wind breaks to outfield fencing.
Courtesy Northern Cass Baseball Twitter account

That sentiment is shared among ADs across the region. West Fargo activities director Jay DeCann commented on his school’s athletics facilities being too close in proximity to accommodate multiple teams at once.

“Our turf field, soccer plays on it,” DeCann said. “We have the track team on the outside of it, and our softball field is directly south of that. So we can play soccer and softball at the same time, because the foul balls usually land on the track and not the turf, but I can’t have track going while softball is going because runners are probably going to have foul balls landing in the area."

DeCann said baseball and softball surfaces have been hit the hardest.

“It’s just a lot of going to baseball and softball fields and looking at where they’re at daily as far as being dry and playable, and then having that same conversation with the ADs at their schools and what they’re facilities are like,” DeCann said. "It’s just a lot of conversations."

Moorhead activities director Dean Haugo said this spring hasn’t been all that different from previous ones. However, Haugo added that those teams that play on turf surfaces have had better luck.

“It’s been a challenging spring, but really, it’s not that out of the ordinary,” Haugo said. “We do run into cold and wet springs on a regular basis. On our side of things, some sports have had a tougher start than others. For the sports that play on turf, it’s been a little bit better than those that have to play on grass, and there’s a real distinction there."

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Haugo admitted that the constant shuffling of games and competitions is a pain at times, but it’s something he loves doing for the sake of student-athletes and coaches, especially after the scrapped 2020 season.

“Let’s keep in mind, two years ago, when we had to cancel the entire season and no seniors, juniors, sophomores or freshmen got to finish out their year, that was perspective for everybody,” Haugo said. “Anything we have to do this year, even though it’s extra work and certainly challenging at times, I’m still happy to be doing it because the feeling I had two years ago will never leave. That disappointment and just the ache that you felt for those kids that didn’t get to compete."

At West Fargo Sheyenne, this spring season is just another learning curve for first-year activities director Cory Herrmann.

Herrmann said rescheduling practices in a short period of time is a bigger challenge than rescheduling games. Herrmann also said ADs need to take into account the availability of umpires and officials.

“It’s not like I can just take a soccer game and just throw it onto our turf right away, because we have track as well that’s going on," Herrmann said. "We have middle school track and field happening, too. So you have to look at all of the different pieces of the puzzle before you can just make a change."

Many teams have been forced to practice indoors while awaiting a clear field, making it even more challenging on student-athletes.

"The kids, they’re frustrated. My own son is an athlete here at the school," Herrmann said. "He plays baseball and he’s been telling me he’s absolutely sick of indoor practices. He goes, ‘I need to see a real pitch or a real fly ball.’ And I go, ‘I totally agree.’"

Ultimately, ADs are optimistic that their teams will get a fair amount of games and competitions in. It will simply boil down to a break in the weather pattern and the logistical pros known as local activities directors.

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“It is a big challenge, but as ADs — kind of that network of ADs we have in this area — everybody does an excellent job of working together,” Herrmann said. “And there’s definitely checks and balances. If there’s something that maybe I didn’t see on my end, you hear something from the ADs double-checking and confirming and making sure we have the facility space. Everybody is awesome as far as their flexibility and ability to adapt with short-term changes.”

Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.
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