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Tom Mix, Published April 26 2013

Fargo Shanley host first outdoor track meet of the season

MOORHEAD – Better late than never sums up the Fargo Shanley Invitational boys and girls track and field meet on Friday.

The sun was shining on Jake Christiansen Stadium and eight schools, including Fargo South, Fargo North, Fargo Davies, Fargo Shanley, Wahpeton, Grand Forks Central, Grand Forks Red River and Devils Lake, took full advantage of the 65-degree day by entering athletes in the first official outdoor meet of the year.

Days like Friday have taken a long time to reach the Red River Valley this spring. In fact, Friday was the first day the high temperature reached above 50 degrees. Lingering snow and cool temperatures have claimed a large portion of schedules for every spring sport across the state.

“Finally being outside is the key,” Fargo South girls track and field coach Mike Merritt said. “We’ve just run out of things that we can do inside. We are fortunate to have the indoor arena for practice at South, but the whole demeanor of the team has changed since we have been outside starting on Wednesday.”

Large snow piles still surrounded the track at Jake Christiansen Stadium, but that didn’t seem to bother any of the athletes who have been forced to practice mostly indoors since the season started on Feb. 25.

“It feels really good to be out here,” said Fargo North senior sprinter DeSean Thompson, who is a North Dakota State track and field commit. “I love running outside and the weather is nice, which obviously helps a lot.”

Thompson is the defending North Dakota Class A state champion in the 100 meters and was a member of North’s 800-meter relay team that won a state title last year.

A year ago, several track and field meets were held outdoors as early as late March and under ideal weather conditions.

This spring, teams and athletes are essentially a month behind in regards to competition and that’s something Thompson admits could be a big obstacle to overcome considering the East Region meet is May 18 and the state meet is May 24-25.

“It is going to be really tough for any athlete,” Thompson said. “You are just going to have to work twice as hard to get what you want to get out of it.”

Coaches are feeling the schedule pinch, too.

“I talked to the girls today and said (East Region) is in three weeks, which is crazy because (Friday) was our first outdoor meet,” Fargo Davies girls coach Missy Wilson said. “I think as coaches we have to make sure we are taking care of these athletes. We have to protect them and make sure that we are not getting too zealous by putting them in too many events. They have to have time to recover and avoid injuries.”

Longtime Fargo North boys coach Gary Mailloux said his squad has finally been able to work on the finer points such as relay handoffs being on the outdoor track. Prior to Friday, much of North’s outdoor track practices were done in parking lots.

Jake Christiansen Stadium wasn’t the only track and field hotspot on Friday.

Over 37 teams flocked to Lisbon, N.D. for an outdoor meet that featured a full event lineup including throwing events, which were not a part of the events at Jake Christiansen Stadium due to saturated ground.

Though snow still covered much of the south bleachers and puddles dotted the track, Friday signaled the start of what will be an abbreviated outdoor season.

“It feels fantastic,” said Shanley sophomore sprinter Julia Johnson, who runs the 100 and 200 meters. “The weather has been so unpredictable this year with the flood and all the snow. We have lost over half the season, but it feels so wonderful to be able to compete in 60-degree weather.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562