State of limbo: With ND sports on hold, athletes unsure how to proceed

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Posted: Friday, March 27, 2020 6:33 am

Instead of boarding the bus to take part in Hillsboro-Central Valley’s third state Class B boys basketball tournament in four years, Sam Preston can only lace up his shoes and grit his teeth in anticipation that the tournament still happens.

“I’m not very hopeful,” the Burros junior forward said. “I tried hanging on to it for the first week after the closure announcement, but it doesn’t sound very hopeful that the games get played.

“It sucks because you put in all the work. We went through all our ups and downs and we’re finally playing our best basketball, but our state chances are being taken away.” 

The Burros were set to play in the North Dakota Class B tournament last weekend. 

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Dakota High School Activities Association has suspended all sports activities in correlation with the closure of schools. 

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum declared a state of emergency and closed all 175 school districts indefinitely after President Trump declared a national emergency March 13.

“It’s a bummer for sure to say the least,” said H-CV senior guard Oscar Benson. “You put in all that work at the beginning of winter. We all have that goal to get to the state tournament and to have it cut short is really unfortunate. It’s something I’ve never seen before.”

Benson is also a top-10 long jumper in the state and took fifth in the triple jump a year ago. 

Benson said he was utilizing the Hillsboro Fitness Center daily prior to the shutdown of all gyms and school facilities.

With the shutdown, he has resorted to workouts at home with the use of dumbbells and other equipment. 

He said trying online video workouts helps keep his muscles in shape, but not being able to do speed work and weighted squats are jeopardizing how in shape he’ll be if and when the season resumes.

“I really feel bad for my friends who don’t have a winter sport who worked all winter to prepare for their spring sport,” Benson said.

Saige Forseth, a senior all-state softball player for H-CV, is trying to remain hopeful but is worried having a shortened season will put her behind when playing at the college level next year.

“When I first found out it (the season) would be postponed, I did break down a little bit,” Forseth said. “But our coach and my parents have been really good about keeping us positive, so I’m holding on to a lot of hope and really looking forward to still having a season.”

Forseth verbally committed to play softball at Valley City State University in 2021, expecting to sign in mid-April. 

“I’m worried I’m going to fall behind there if we don’t have a season, and still don’t know about summer season. It’s hard to stay motivated when your end goal seems so far away.”

With the school system closed and season suspensions in place, teachers and coaches are having to communicate with students and athletes online. 

Teachers are setting up Google Classroom for student lessons, and H-CV’s head boys golf coach Ryan Nielsen is using that tool to set up a separate page for his golf team, too. 

NDHSAA has restricted coaches from having in-person contact with players, requiring or suggesting groups of students gather, suggesting or supporting “captain’s practices,” providing feedback or evaluation on athletes’ individual workouts or requiring that students participate in any workouts or skills training. 

“Today (Monday) was scheduled to be our first day,” Nielsen said. “Legally we can’t require our participants to do anything. It’s frustrating for sure. We are (only) communicating through Google Classroom and emails.”

The only option for coaches is to provide workouts, videos and any tools to athletes.

Preston is also on H-CV’s golf team and is excited to have the opportunity to benefit from the online resources.

“I hadn’t heard that Coach (Nielsen) was going to use Google Classroom, but I’m sure he’ll reach out soon,” he said.

“Golf is more about fundamentals – you know, the swing, which is hard to do inside – but anything that can be sent to help keep our bodies in shape will be helpful.”

Preston also said that H-CV head football coach Scott Olsen texted workouts to everyone on the team that could be done in-home three times per week. 

The goal of the workouts is to help keep the body in shape as much as possible during this time. Preston interchanges between quarterback and free safety for the Burros. 

“My dad is making me eggs, bacon and hashbrowns in the morning now, though, so I’m OK relaxing for a little bit and trying to get my body back after a long basketball season,” Preston said.

While coaches are providing tools to help athletes, they still know the importance of staying safe during the shutdowns.

“I’m trying to do the social distancing and what (the) Center for Disease Control (CDC) tells us,” Nielsen said. “I’ve never seen anything like this.

“It reminds me of 9/11,” Nielsen added. “This is right in our backyard, so it really affects everyone.

“I think we have some trying times ahead, but with a positive and open mind, we will get through it.” 

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