Another early spring… I don’t think so

So much for taking in an early-season track meet, baseball game or girls’ lacrosse match around here.

Jason Olson

Jason Olson

I receive changes to the official schedule in my email box, via each conference’s website. It’s a great tool to plan coverage, but over the last two weeks my inbox has been inundated with postponements and cancellations as the already brief spring sports season has become even shorter with recent snowfall and other wet weather.

Every spring, except for last year, we seem to run into this period of uncertainty when schedules are really at the mercy of Mother Nature.

I asked a few activities directors about the headaches they go through trying to reschedule different events and each had a consistent theme to their response: class work comes before activities and they cannot predict the weather.

Blaine’s first-year Activities Director Shannon Gerrety said, “It’s a battle. We keep thinking next week, next week, next week [we can get outside] and you always like to be able to predict it, but we cannot.”

Gerrety said he feels bad for the kids “because it’s about them.

“It’s a headache for us as ADs and recreating schedules is a headache.”

He pointed out baseball and softball seem to be the toughest to schedule because he estimates they’ll have a 20-25 day regular season. “It comes back to the kids and their health,” Gerrety said. “And I don’t want to be responsible for ruining kids’ arms for life. We can’t worry about what we can’t control and the weather is one factor we can’t control.”

Gerrety believed that at least some of the spring teams would have a chance to get outside the week of April 19, but a spring snowstorm late last week and more bad weather over the weekend delayed the start until at least April 24.

Northwest Suburban Conference activities directors met April 16 to figure out schedules, especially for baseball and softball. Gerrety said the group came to a consensus to reduce the schedule to 10 games which will count in the standings instead of the typical 14 to 16 games played in a regular season. The remaining conference games will be considered non-conference.

Spring Lake Park girls’ golf coach Tom Benson said the creative juices have been flowing for a while on how to keep his group sharp inside.

“It’s getting old,” he said. “It stinks and the kids want to get out and show off what they’ve done in the off-season. They don’t want to hit in the batting cage any more.”

Benson created mini-games inside the baseball batting cages in the gym for the players to hit into and with space at a premium inside, the players resorted to making mini-golf courses in the hallways.

The Panthers managed to hit outdoors a couple of times at the Majestic Oaks’ driving range, but that was it for outdoors action.

Coon Rapids boys’ golf coach Larry Overskei said he’s never seen anything like this spring in 42 years of coaching. “This is the latest we’ve gotten out by far,” he said, while the team has utilized the new indoor simulators at Bunker Hills or putted in the halls at Coon Rapids High School. “You feel bad for the kids in spring sports because they’re being cheated big-time,” Overskei said.

What would it take to get things going? “Some sun and mid to upper 40s to get that melt going,” he said. “But the venues are all locked up. It’s not your golf course, you’re dealing with all other types of events at the area courses.”

Overskei said the 130-team Bunker Invite has never been pushed back because of snow and the April 25 date is in jeopardy.

St. Francis Activities Director Jeff Fink echoed Gerrety’s general thoughts. “To say it’s a struggle is an understatement,” he said, regarding the scheduling process. “It’s frustrating that you have kids in the gym for this long.” He added that the size of the St. Francis gym hasn’t lent well to indoor competition.

One scheduling benefit for the Saints has come from having Prom out of the way April 13. “Unfortunately we already have things scheduled for every Saturday now through tournament time,” he said.

Fink hopes to open the track season April 20 with the Saints Invite. The key will be if the track can be cleared off, along with the bleachers. “If we can do that, we can hold shot and high jump events inside and everything else will be outside with the exception maybe of pole vault and discus,” Fink said.

As for baseball, it looks like the Saints will play a 14-game North Suburban Conference schedule hopefully starting April 22 with conference games from that date forward counting in the standings. Conference games against Benilde, Irondale, Cooper and Totino-Grace will be played but not counted toward a conference title. A conference champion will be based on winning percentage because of the possibility of uneven games being played.

Softball will play a single round of 10 conference games and Fink said he’s trying to reschedule games, which is easier than baseball because pitchers can throw more frequently.

As for golf, the teams are at the mercy of the course and its schedule to find openings. He said the golfers have been able to hit off the driving ranges at The Ponds and The Refuge.

Jason Olson is at jason.olson@ecm-inc.com

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