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Published October 20 2011

1961 Fargo Central cross country champs ready to reunite after 50 years

Fargo - Some memories last forever. Others are so good they are worth reliving 50 years later.

Former Fargo Central High School standout cross country runner Jim Svobodny’s recollections of the 1961 North Dakota high school state boys cross country meet in Jamestown are crystal clear.

It was cold that October day. And the first North Dakota High School Activities Association sanctioned state cross country championships began and ended on the track at Jamestown College.

Svobodny, a senior at the time, finished fourth. Central erupted after getting the news they had edged Fort Yates by one point for the championship.

“We were jumping up and down,” said Svobodny, a former Minnesota State Moorhead professor who will reunite with four of his former teammates to celebrate the championship at Saturday’s state cross country meet at Fargo’s Rose Creek Golf Course.

Fargo Central’s runners will be introduced after the Class A boys and girls races. However, the five men will be at Rose Creek early in the day to check out the course.

Svobodny said former teammate Robin Bernhoft is planning to run the course before the state races begin. The rest of the team will walk the course together. They will wear T-shirts with Central’s purple and white school colors.

When Bernhoft is finished, the Central team will walk hand-in-hand across the finish line.

“We have been emailing and razzing each other the last couple of months,” Svobodny said.

Svobodny said Central was a dominant force in the state, winning 24 consecutive cross country meets from 1959 to 1961.

The Midgets were used to winning, but a chance to finally earn a state championship trophy ramped up the excitement for the 1961 season.

“We had heard about this great group of runners from Fort Yates,” Svobodny said. “Our goal was to beat them. And we beat them by one point, 54-55.”

It was Central’s only state cross country title. Fort Yates won championships from 1962-65. Fargo Central burned down in 1966 and was not rebuilt.

Most of the school’s trophies were lost in the blaze, including the cross country hardware from 1961.

The memories remain untouched.

“I had not really thought about the fact that so many things were going on 50 years ago,” Svobodny said. “(The state cross country meet) was the same month as Roger Maris hit his 61st home run. And John F. Kennedy was in his first year as President. We really consider ourselves pioneers in cross country in the state of North Dakota.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com