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Tom Mix, Published March 28 2013

A more typical spring thaw will keep teams from early spring starts this season

Fargo - After a one-year stint filled with unseasonably warm temperatures, it appears area high school teams will once again take the wait-and-see approach to preparing for their competitions this spring.

Heavy snow cover is keeping spring sports inside for the foreseeable future.

Fargo North’s softball team is two weeks into spring practice, all of which has occurred inside a gym. North’s softball diamond is still completely covered with snow.

“It is kind of depressing,” North senior Courtney Johnson said. “It’s already the second week of practice, and we are still inside. Last year we were outside hitting the second day of practice.”

The Spartans players and coaches took matters into their own hands Monday.

Armed with shovels instead of bats, members of the team attempted to clear the infield in hopes of speeding up the melting process.

“It started out just as an idea because no team wants to be stuck in a gym for a month and half,” Johnson said. “We thought shoveling might be a good idea, but it turned out to be a bigger project than we first thought. We got some fun out of it, but I don’t think we did much damage.”

The cool temps and slow starts to spring activities are nothing new, but considering last season’s mild spring – where every spring sport in North Dakota started on or ahead of schedule – lessons in patience may be needed.

“It’s plenty congested in our building right now,” West Fargo High School activities director Curt Jones said. “What has been good is they all have been cooperating with one another and realize they are all in the same boat.”

Boys and girls track and field practices began on Feb. 25, baseball and softball began on March 18 and girls soccer practices started Monday. Girls tennis begins April 1 and boys golf begins April 8.

Fargo North track and field practices have been in full swing for several weeks, but last Friday’s state indoor meet marked the first time the Spartans had stepped on a track.

A year ago, the state Class A and Class B indoor meets were consolidated into one outdoor meet on a sun-drenched Saturday afternoon.

“Last year was an exceptional situation,” North boys track head coach Gary Mailloux said. “We were outdoors on March 22, and I remember commenting that the year before that our first outdoor competition was April 21st. It looks like we could be closer to that date this year.”

Fast forward a year and North has made make-shift high jump and pole vaulting pits inside its fitness center, and hallways have become hurdling alleyways.

“We are making do with what we have, and that’s all you can do,” Mailloux said. “It doesn’t do any good to panic. We still have a number of weeks left.”

The North Dakota High School Activities Association is aware of the pending scheduling problems for spring activities and has lifted some of its weekly restrictions for the those activities.

For example: Baseball regulations limited teams to playing two days per week followed by a school day. This spring that will not be in play, but regulations on playing a maximum of 36 games in 23 dates prior to the state tournament and how many innings a pitcher can throw remain intact.

In track, the restriction of teams only being allowed to participate in three competitions in a week has been lifted.

With more sports starting their seasons, gym time has become a premium.

Jones said he has advised his coaches to schedule gym practice times until April 19.

Fargo Shanley’s gym space has been utilized to the max as well.

“We have had to juggle the times of when they can practice and how long they can practice,” Fargo Shanley activities director Randy Nelson said. “Everybody understands where we are at, and we have to be flexible. We’ll get everybody time in.”

Shanley’s Sid Cichy Stadium – still blanketed by snow – has an artificially surfaced athletic field that is used for soccer in addition to football. The field will be game and practice ready once the snow melts, and it may be the only playable outdoor soccer surface in the metro area for several weeks.

Nelson said he has received one call from a Fargo Public School program checking on the field’s availability for outdoor practices.

“We do rent our facility out,” Nelson said. “Each case can be different. Even though we are not a part of the Fargo Public Schools, there are some things that we will do with some of the other schools with facility use and we try to reciprocate. If there is some give and take, I’m always for that.

“We want to help each other out,” Nelson added.

Playing and practicing outdoors may occur sooner in western parts of the state.

Nelson said Shanley’s baseball team is changing its scheduled home doubleheader against Bismarck on April 6 to be played in Bismarck where fields are closer to playing condition.

“If we go west, we might be OK to play,” Nelson said. “People might have to be creative and see if they can get out west to play some games.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562