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Chris Murphy, Published April 19 2013

Williston resident helps bring first high school taekwondo event to Fargo

FARGO – Randy Waitman can’t control his excitement when discussing taekwondo or bringing 16 area high school male and female athletes together in Fargo for the first taekwondo high school event at 11:30 a.m. today at Fargo Shanley High School.

Over four decades of experience will do that to you.

“Sorry if I babble on too much,” Waitman said. “But after 42 years of martial arts, it is kind of a passion for me.”

Waitman, a Williston, N.D., resident, has been practicing martial arts since 1971. He began refereeing on the national level in 1987 and became certified as an international referee in 1996. In 2008, he was made a first-class international referee, which is the second-highest ranking for referees.

In 2003, he represented the United States as a referee at the World Championship Games in Germany. From Mexico, Chile, Peru and Brazil to Korea, Australia and Canada, martial arts has taken him all over the world.

Where he would like to take martial arts, however, is to high school varsity letterman jackets.

“This high school event is in no way a commercial venture,” Waitman said. “While it is not a new concept, this meet will be the first using this concept in the Fargo area. The idea is peer recognition for excellence in achievement, a strong driving force for kids of the high school age, and acknowledgement of their athletic prowess on the field of play.

“Since taekwondo is generally considered an unconventional activity, those that participate often do not get the exposure that their classmates do for athletic success. This game format was designed as a way to grow and promulgate that idea.”

In 2000, Waitman completed a thesis paper, which was part of his requirements for a promotion to a higher black belt rank. He made an argument to the Williston School District for the acceptance of taekwondo as a varsity letter sport.

“We still award letters annually in Williston, and although interest has waned in other places, there has been a recent resurgence of interest, thus leading to this weekend’s event,” Waitman said. “Fargo has long been a hotbed of martial arts of all sorts, and I made many friends in that area before, during and after the time my wife and I lived there. I have a weak spot for the place, so it was a good spot to host the event.”

Clay target shooting just became a sport for the Minnesota State High School League beginning next summer. A group was already sponsoring competitions that involved high school students from all over the state. They made presentations to the MSHSL Board of Directors and the Board approved it. That’s the basic model.

“Taekwondo is not an activity that has been suggested as an additional program for league sponsorship,” MSHSL Associate Director Craig Perry said.

There has not been much of a demand on the North Dakota side as well.

“There would have to be a request of a number of member schools to request that our association sponsor it,” North Dakota High School Activities Association Assistant to the Executive Secretary Matt Fetsch said. “A bit of a precedent has been set where there’s typically a minimum of 12 schools that indicate an intent to sponsor before it’s even considered.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548