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Tom Mix, Published April 17 2013

West Fargo HS submits request to push back state tournaments for spring sports

WEST FARGO – The clock is ticking on the North Dakota high school spring sports season. Athletes, coaches and administrators are starting to realize time will not be on their side this year.

With nearly half of schedules already erased because of poor weather conditions, it’s undecided as to when many spring sports are going to begin.

The growing reality that much of the state will not be hosting games until the first week of May – or later – has led West Fargo activities director Curt Jones to request the North Dakota High School Activities Association consider pushing back the state tournaments for spring sports by one or two weeks due to continued poor weather.

Jones submitted a formal request to NDHSAA late last week. The issue has been added to the agenda for the upcoming NDHSAA Board of Directors meeting on Tuesday in Valley City, N.D.

“I’m very concerned,” Jones said. “In any athletic season, it is all about kids getting prepared for the state tournament or the postseason. How do you prepare for that when you only have four weeks of competition? It is not fair to the kids.”

State tournaments in North Dakota run between May 23 and June 5 for all spring sports.

NDHSAA assistant to the executive secretary Justin Fletschock said any changes to the approved state tournament dates would be “unprecedented.”

But this spring has been unprecedented as well. Earlier this week, a winter storm dumped 17.3 inches of snow in Bismarck and 6.3 inches in Fargo.

“It has been a tough spring, and it has been tough on our athletes and coaches,” Fargo Public Schools activities director Todd Olson said.

Area teams can count on more postponements and cancellations, with temperatures to remain below 50 degrees until late next week.

So what are the chances the state tournaments are rescheduled?

Olson, who also is a member of the NDHSAA Board of Directors, couldn’t recall of any instance where a spring state tournament had been rescheduled because of poor weather during the season.

“I think picking up and moving all the spring state tournaments at this late date would be very difficult,” said Olson, who mentioned the Minnesota State High School League’s decision not to change any of its spring sports state tournament schedule earlier this week. “I’m just a single board member, but I would suspect that would be the direction our board would go.”

West Fargo’s request outlines the fact that the entire state will be playing condensed schedules with a high volume of games per week because of the late start to the season. Safety concerns for athletes playing a high amount of games – especially in baseball, softball and girls soccer – within a short time span are also an issue the request points out.

The NDHSAA already has lifted several competition regulations for many sports allowing teams to get more games and competitions in, but that might not completely solve the problem.

Fletschock cited logistical concerns as the paramount roadblock in pushing back the state tournaments. Many soccer clubs and American Legion baseball begin summer competition shortly after the conclusion of the high school spring sports season. Any move of tournaments this season would likely create potential conflicts with those activities.

“The Board will take a look at the request and discuss it, but I’m not really sure what can be done because it’s such an unknown circumstance,” Fletschock said. “The number of people this would affect would be large. From my view point, it would be hard to make a change like that.”

As of Wednesday, Fletschock said the letter submitted by Jones was the only request the NDHSAA offices had received on the matter.

“There needs to be more support for this, and hopefully there are other schools and other athletic administrators that feel the same way,” Jones said. “At least this request gives (the NDHSAA) a chance to look at it.”

Despite the continued poor weather, Olson remains optimistic this spring season won’t be a complete loss.

“We are going to have some nice days in May,” Olson said. “We won’t be able to play the maximum number of contests like we usually do in most seasons, but that is not uncommon either. We will just have to try to get what we can in before the postseason tournaments.”


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