Summit postponement leaves Bison programs with more questions than answers

North Dakota State cross country senior Kelby Anderson is the defending Summit League champion. NDSU Athletics photo

FARGO — It was a reason to celebrate for Andrew Carlson last week when he was named the head cross country coach at North Dakota State. A week later, and probably not unexpectedly, the Summit League moved its fall sports to the spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That brings about another issue for the Bison long distance runners: how do they run cross country, indoor and outdoor track in just a few months?

“It’s a complicated issue,” Carlson said.

It’s complicated on multiple fronts, he said. One, just being “in” season in one sport. Two, with the weather in North Dakota not conducive to hosting meets until at least April, Bison cross country runners would have to travel to find competition and there could be limitations with that.

Most dual cross country/track and field runners are in a season around 10 months a year. Now, those 10 will be bottlenecked into maybe three or four, depending on any potential control of the coronavirus. For instance, Bison senior Kelby Anderson won the Summit League cross country title last fall and the 3,000 and 5,000 meters in track and field at the Summit Indoor Championships in February. The outdoor season was canceled.


“Like anyone right now, we don’t know exactly how anything will work,” Carlson said. “I’m guessing we’ll just go with it.”

Carlson, also an assistant track and field coach, scheduled a Zoom meeting with his distance runners Tuesday night. He prefaced the call with the fact he may not have much information to provide them.

“If not, we’ll just chat,” he said.

That chatter with NDSU volleyball and soccer is probably much the same. What now? The Bison volleyball team is continuing to practice until it hears otherwise, said head coach Jennifer Lopez.

She has not heard if any nonconference matches are a possibility. The Missouri Valley Football Conference, for instance, gave the OK for non-league games last week while moving the conference schedule to the spring.

“That decision hasn’t been made,” Lopez said.

NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen gave the volleyball team the news on Monday night. The team met after that and continued meeting Tuesday morning.

“We’ve had some good conversations with our athletes already,” Lopez said. “We feel really good what we can still do this spring.”


She said all of her players are committed to play in the spring semester.

The Summit at one time appeared to be one of the more patient leagues in mid-major athletics when it came to putting off a decision not to play. The vote on Monday afternoon by the league’s Presidents Council, however, was unanimous.

Asked if it was possible for cross country to hold a season because it’s outside and runners could possibly be individually timed, Carlson pointed to a bigger picture.

“I can see it from an athletic department standpoint, there needs to be uniformity in what you do,” he said. “If you cancel one thing, you cancel everything. I think in a lot of ways we could do it just because it’s outside and if you’re really good you run alone anyways. I could see how it could work but ultimately the NBA works because resources are somewhat unlimited and they don’t have to go to class where in college athletics these kids need to be in class and maybe that’s an increased risk.”

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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