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Published August 31 2011

After 20 years together, many see benefits of D-G-F combined athletic teams

Glyndon, Minn. - Separated by six miles of farmland along Highway 10, Dilworth and Glyndon not long ago were rivals in high school sports.

When the Dilworth Locomotives played the Glyndon-Felton Buffaloes, it was sure to draw a crowd.

“I grew up in Glyndon, and it was a big rivalry,” said now-Dilworth resident Jamie Myklebust. “I remember when I was a kid going to some of those big games. A lot of people went to them.”

So imagine when people from both schools learned their rivalry would not only end, but they would join forces to become one big school.

“You know (Dilworth) was our biggest rival,” said LeeAnn Cummings, who went to Glyndon-Felton for three years. “And it wasn’t initially well-received by our senior class.”

It was 20 years ago when Dilworth and Glyndon-Felton combined. These days the focus is different.

Whether it’s athletes or community members, the new plan is simple: Work together to beat schools like Breckenridge or Hawley.

Go back 20 years ago and, for some, the plan was to just co-exist.

Why the merger

Minnesota, in the early 1990s, was going through budget problems – much like the current money woes that state is experiencing.

That, in turn, resulted in the growing threat of small school districts being swallowed by larger school districts and losing their identity.

“The state was looking at how it could condense school districts,” said D-G-F athletic director Craig Anderson, who coached at Dilworth before the merger. “And it looked like (Dilworth) was going to end up in Moorhead. I don’t think anyone in Dilworth wanted to be part of Moorhead at the time.”

Former D-G-F superintendent Dennis Wahl said the trend of consolidating school districts, to a degree, started earlier. Glyndon and Felton merged in 1983 because it was a challenge to keep a school open in Felton.

Even though Glyndon and Felton combined, all three districts were facing problems, Anderson said. That’s when representatives from both school districts, starting in 1989, began the process of a merger.

In 1991, the merger became official as both schools combined to be Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.

“Well, I think it went well,” Wahl said about the merger’s success. “Certainly as far as these kids are concerned, the majority of them got a long right from the start.”

Getting along

Eight years before the merger, students from both schools played sports together through co-ops in track and wrestling.

“A lot of us also knew each other through religious education too,” said Myklebust, who was a freshman when D-G-F first opened. “Some of the older students didn’t welcome it as much based upon athletics.”

D-G-F girls sports coordinator Jean Lopez, who started at Dilworth, was the school’s volleyball coach at the time. Lopez said she often heard parents and others talking about how teams were selected.

She said they would point out things like how many Dilworth kids were on a team compared to how many Glyndon-Felton kids.

“It wasn’t that we were picking kids from one town,” Lopez said. “We were just picking the best kids. It didn’t matter what town they were from.”

Cummings, who played for Lopez, said she never saw any favoritism and everything was based off a player’s talent. Cummings and Myklebust said as time went along, the students actually became a lot closer.

It certainly helped when it came time to pick the school song, school colors and the school mascot.

“How we did it was, I think I gave each class an opportunity to pick something,” Anderson said. “One class picked the school song, one class picked out the letterman’s jacket and that’s where our school colors came from. We wanted everyone to feel a part of it.”

But there were things the school did to honor Dilworth and Glyndon-Felton during that first year. Cummings said the school had separate homecomings with separate homecoming courts.

And when graduation rolled around, each student had a choice of getting a diploma with Dilworth, Glyndon-Felton or D-G-F on it.

“At the end of the year, I chose the (D-G-F) diploma,’ Cummings said. “There were a lot of firsts and things that changed. It went very well since it was a big year of change.”

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

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com