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Snowed in: Recent weather, flood concerns combine to torment spring sports season

FARGO - The Fargo North baseball team is practicing in the Fargodome parking lot, the Spartans girls soccer team has traded grass for the hardwood of a gymnasium and the West Fargo girls tennis team is taking its swings in the school's commons.

The height of the snow
The height of the snow on West Fargo High School's baseball field has approached the top of the outfield fence. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

FARGO - The Fargo North baseball team is practicing in the Fargodome parking lot, the Spartans girls soccer team has traded grass for the hardwood of a gymnasium and the West Fargo girls tennis team is taking its swings in the school's commons.

These scenes are common for spring sports teams in the Red River Valley.

However, a late March snowstorm and the threat of widespread flooding this year has some athletic directors and coaches concerned that most sports could lose several weeks of games. And players might have to get used to these unusual practice settings.

"We kind of know we are not going to start on time," West Fargo athletic director Curt Jones said Tuesday. "But we are fearful that we are going to miss two, maybe three weeks before we get going. Then, anybody who has been in a spring sports knows, there is always rain to contend with. March has been really frustrating."

Jones was much more optimistic about the spring sports season before Mother Nature dumped more than eight inches of snow on the metro last week.

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Now, playing fields that appeared on their way to being cleared and dried sit under mounds of packed snow.

Last year's unusually early spring thaw and move outside for spring sports teams feels like a distant memory.

"In the spring, you wake up in the morning and when you are shaving wonder what the day will bring in terms of weather-related issues," North athletic director Troy Cody said. "Welcome to North Dakota."

With unpredictable weather and flood concerns to contend with each spring, school administrators have to find indoor practice space for all of their sports.

Many schools are getting creative.

Besides the baseball team's use of Fargodome parking lot, North has scheduled 6 a.m. tennis practice at Courts Plus and the Metro Rec Center.

Shanley athletic director Randy Nelson said the Deacons baseball and softball teams will likely use Sid Cichy Stadium for some outdoor practices when snow is cleared off the turf. But it could be awhile before the turf field is playable, Nelson said.

"If we wouldn't have had that last snow, we would have been out there last week," Nelson said.

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Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton athletic director Craig Anderson said his job heats up each year when spring arrives.

"The spring for an athletic director is a lot busier than most seasons because of the cancellations of games and the rescheduling of games," Anderson said. "Then you look at your busing. Then there are your officials. Hopefully you can find officials for those games you have to make up."

Anderson, who has been an umpire for 30 years, said high schools aren't the only ones affected. He pointed out how colleges like Concordia and North Dakota State are often at the mercy of the weather.

In turn, that could create situations where umpires are in high demand because of the need from the high schools and the colleges.

Anderson said the Minnesota State High School League allows teams to play up 20 games in a baseball/softball season. Anderson said there are years where every game has been played, and other years where games are lost.

Schools often have contingency plans, Anderson said.

Anderson said D-G-F allocates its four gymnasiums among all spring high school and junior high sports teams.

Moorhead athletic director Don Hulbert said the school recently constructed a fieldhouse so baseball and softball players can get work done in the batting cages.

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Then there's the rest of the plan that involves making up games and the reality schools face this time of year.

"Kids cannot miss school to make up a contest they missed in April," Hulbert said. "It does create a lot of pressure because there is the issue of seeding for playoffs and getting those games in is important. The reality is, we have to cancel some of our games for weather."

Athletic directors from North Dakota metro schools are scheduled to meet today, a meeting of North Dakota statewide athletic directors is slated for this weekend and Eastern Dakota Conference officials are scheduled to meet April 13.

Weather-related scheduling issues will be a primary topic of discussion at all of the meetings, Cody said.

For now, all teams can do is wait indoors.

"We're practicing on a gym floor," North girls soccer coach Cordell Sinding said. "A ball should be dribbled with your hands on this stuff, not with your feet. Hopefully, we have some sort of dry spell."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562. Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

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