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Weather taking a toll on spring sports

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Zeezrom Mounga competes in the boys high jump at the Northern State Relays at the Barnett Center. That meet in March has been Roncalli's only competition so far this season. Photo by John Davis taken 3/29/2021

Optimism has been tempered with frustration as the weather has wiped out numerous events for track and field, tennis and golf so far this spring.

From rain to wind to cold temperatures, one event after another has either been postponed or canceled in the past two weeks.

“We had two or three really nice weeks of practice and then when we were about go outside for a track meet the weather turned on us,” said Roncalli coach Mark Stone. “We’re only going to control what we can and we’re going to try to let go of what we can’t control and the weather is one of those things. We know our time will come. We’re just getting anxious for that time to happen.”

The Cavaliers have had five meets taken away that they were going to compete in, including one already called off for next Tuesday. Meanwhile, across town, Aberdeen Christian has not competed in an outdoor meet since April 1.

“It really kind of makes practice planning kind of strange,” said Christian coach David Rohrbach, trying to figure out when to push the athletes and when to back off a bit. “That’s all kind of predicated on your supposed meets. To have those meets canceled definitely throws a wrench in that. It’s a little bit frustrating on that end, and obviously mostly for the kids, who haven’t had a meet in a couple of weeks now.”

Getting creative

Having so many practices without any competition makes it difficult on those involved. Coaches try to keep things fresh and interesting, while at the same time pushing the athletes so they are ready to compete when the time comes.

“It’s a little tougher to keep them motivated in practice. The coaches have done a really good job of mixing up different things and just trying to keeping it fresh for them, doing different things to simulate what it would be like for a race,” Rohrbach said.

The Cavaliers are not backing off, because they know that sooner or later they will be in a position to compete in an organized meet.

“We’ve been working really hard in practice. We’re kind of keeping our finger on the go button and keeping ourselves on task,” Stone said. “We’re asking a lot of our athletes in practice so when that day comes, they’ll have the opportunity to compete.”

Both Christian and Roncalli are in unique situations in that neither one currently has an actual track to train on. Both are using parking lots which leads to a whole different set of issues.

“We’re fortunate that we have some field event areas we can use, but at the moment we have some orange X’s painted on the parking lot,” Stone said. “We have some orange cones to try to divert the traffic, because runners and traffic don’t mix well together. We just do the best we can.”

Roncalli will eventually have a practice track to run on. Construction on that will start soon.

The Knights run on a parking lot as well and are trying to make the best of the situation.

“It’s kind of funny because around the parking lot and with the street, it’s shaped somewhat in the shape of a track and it comes close to a 400 so it actually works OK,” Rohrbach said. “Something that we’ve been doing to give kids’ knees and ankles a break is have them run in the grass for some straight-line sprints and things, On some of the colder days they’ve actually been running indoors.”

Trickle down impacts

When scheduled events get postponed or canceled it not only impacts the people involved, but the entire school. Rohrbach said plans are made for students to be gone and then alternate plans have to be made if those students are back in school.

“They’re planning for so many kids and for myself to be gone that day and then ‘Oh, we’re not gone and then we’re planning to go to this other meet later in the week.’ So you prepare for that and then that gets canceled” he said. “It’s kind of a whole chain reaction. Kids do make up work and then they’re going to be in school. It’s just kind of a funny domino effect.”

Not only that, but for both Stone and Rohrbach who serve as athletic directors, it can be very difficult to find suitable substitute events once a meet gets called off, which has become the norm lately.

“The email in-box is pretty active every day. Rescheduling isn’t always easy. It’s hard to find common open dates,” Stone said. “There’s a lot of moving parts in all of this. In all spring sports we just have to keep making an effort to put opportunities in front of those young people.”

For the most part, golf hasn’t been impacted as much as the other spring sports, because it has a bit later start to its season. However, Roncalli has already had four tennis duals become a casualty of the weather.

Rohrbach and Stone are staying positive and understand that dealing with the elements is all part of the spring sports scene. They know that they will eventually get their turn on the track, but also know the clock is ticking.

“Even track coaches know that we need rain more than we need track meets. The rain is a blessing, but we’re certainly anxious for the weather to warm up a little bit,” Stone said. “We’re in the second half of April and we don’t really even know what we have, yet. We’re pretty anxious to get going and our kids are pretty anxious to get going.”

Rohrbach said before you know it the end of the season will be here.

“Losing these meets, before long we’re going to be at the conference meet, and the region meet will kind of sneak up on you,” Rohrbach said.

The long wait for the season to finally get underway is only compounded by the fact that COVID wiped out the entire spring season a year ago. That means some athletes haven’t been able to compete since the spring of 2019.

“There were the lost opportunities a year ago in the spring,” Stone said. “That adds to the desire to try to get those kids opportunities to compete and participate, because some of them have been waiting a long time for this to happen.”

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