FARGO — The Kindred boys track and field team was greeted by whipping wind in their long-awaited debut Monday. Gusts wreaked havoc on the Vikings, who were in Lisbon for a triangular — their first meet since 2019.
They kept competing.
“It was awesome to get out and compete,” Kindred head coach Josh Allmaras said. “It was a tough day as far as the wind, but the weather was something we just kind of ignored because we were so excited to get out there and perform.”
The Vikings had a busload of kids who had never competed in a high school meet before. It was the first for almost every freshman and sophomore, who didn’t have last year to prepare and gain experience.
The last time Kindred competed was when it won the Class B state title in 2019. The Vikings graduated a host of solid veterans last season, who never got the chance to defend that state title. North Dakota track and field teams had been practicing for a few weeks before their seasons were suspended and eventually canceled in the early days of the pandemic.
“Our 2020 team would’ve been fantastic. We had a very motivated crew coming back that felt they had a great chance of winning state,” Allmaras said. “This year’s group of juniors and seniors seem motivated to succeed not only for themselves, but for the 2020 seniors.”
Fargo Davies head girls track coach Rory Beil knows the feeling. The four-time defending Class A champion Eagles were primed for a five-peat last year. Eleven of last year’s 20 seniors went on to compete in college, and five were state champions in open events or relays.
They were in the midst of a dynasty in the making.
That experienced roster is now replaced by new faces. This year’s team consists largely of newcomers, who are ready to make their own mark. Of the about 115 girls on Beil’s team, around 60 competed in their first-ever high school meet last Thursday at Fargo South.
“It’s kind of, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone,’” Beil said. “It was pretty emotional last Thursday night — for the kids who missed it, and personally, I missed the sport. There was a chance to get to do what they enjoy doing again. It was a joy to see people running, jumping, throwing. A lot of positive emotions.”
The dual with the Bruins marked exactly 22 months since Davies last participated in a meet.
Senior jumper and sprinter Ellen Donat, who signed a national letter of intent with the North Dakota State women’s track and field program in November, was a sophomore the last time she laced up for a track meet. Donat, who’s recovering from foot surgery, has a couple more weeks to wait until she can return.
She underwent surgery in early February to remove bunions on both of her feet. Donat also plays basketball for Davies, and had to miss the remainder of her senior hoops season. The Eagles reached the Class A girls basketball championship, where they lost to Bismarck Century.
Donat still isn’t able to run, but goes to practice and lifts weights, and does cardio in the school’s weight room, in addition to physical therapy. April 16 is the target date for when she can get back on the track and start running.
“I was thinking ahead not only for this track season, but also for college,” Donat said on surgery. “I don’t know how I could have a super successful season if I’m in this much pain. Waiting for this season, and then having to wait even more because of surgery, it’s been tough. But I’m just really excited.”
Donat won the Class A state title in the long jump with a leap of 18 feet, 3 inches as a sophomore in 2019. She took third in the triple jump at the state meet that year. As a freshman, she won state titles in the 1,600 and 800-meter relays.
“I definitely feel a little bit of pressure coming back, just because I am committed,” Donat said. “But I’m really excited, so the pressure doesn’t faze me as much.”
Shanley's season debut put on hold
Fargo Shanley senior sprinter Henry Collins was supposed to have his first meet of the season earlier this week, but his senior debut will also have to wait. The Deacons were notified at noon on the day of the meet that the high school students were being sent home from positive COVID-19 cases.
Shanley's first meet back after the protocol will be April 9. The Deacons had been practicing for a full four weeks before the brief pause.
“It’s a little disheartening, but in comparison to last year, at least we’re on track to have a season, regardless of how many meets we do get,” Collins said. “We’ll eventually get to go out there and run this year, which is better than we can say from last year.”
Collins took second in the 200 (22.29) and placed fourth in the 400 (49.41) as a sophomore in 2019. He signed a letter of intent with the Bison men’s track and field team last week.
After losing a year of high school track, he’s determined to make the most of this season to prepare for the next level.
“If I had to go from my last season of running, when I was a sophomore, to going into college, it would probably be a pretty big jump,” Collins said. “Being able to move on will be good to get myself more comfortable with knowing I’m talented enough to do it.”
It’ll also be an important year for track and field athletes hoping to continue on after high school that haven’t yet found themselves on the recruiting radar, Beil said.
“College coaches really didn’t know what to look at because they didn’t have last year, and junior year is a big year for them to identify who they want to pursue,” Beil said. “Now you're looking at sophomore performances, and a lot can happen between sophomore and junior years.”