FRIEZ COLUMN: The return of spring sports is welcome, needed and oh-so satisfying
Come Monday, for the first time in an agonizing 670 days, the Lumberjacks can actually play during the spring sports season.
Monday’s arrival will be a sight to behold for Bemidji High School athletes.
That’s because, for the first time in an agonizing 670 days, the Lumberjacks can actually play during the spring sports season.
The last time any spring athlete competed for BHS, Taylor Offerdahl placed 20th at the Class 3A state girls golf tournament on June 12, 2019. Fast forward nearly two years, and Offerdahl’s mother will issue in the spring season with the same program.
Tina Offerdahl, technically a second-year head coach, never got the chance to watch the Lumberjacks compete in 2020. The coronavirus pandemic grabbed a foothold on everyday life just weeks before the season, and the Minnesota State High School League ultimately canceled spring sports.
But you’ve read that recap a hundred times by now. So how’s this for refreshing: The wait is all but over now.
Spring sports are already underway in some parts of the state, and the fun kicks off Monday, April 12, for Bemidji. The girls golf team will be in Cold Spring for an invitational hosted by Rocori.
The baseball team gets in on the action on Tuesday, April 13, traveling to Fergus Falls for its season opener.
After a sports-less hiatus on Wednesday, the Jacks will be out in full force on Thursday, April 15. The softball and boys tennis teams will host the school’s first home events, respectively welcoming in Brainerd and St. Cloud Tech for contests at BHS.
On the road Thursday, the baseball team converges on Detroit Lakes while track and field will be in Brainerd for a meet that was rescheduled from Monday, April 12, and moved out of Bemidji due to impending weather.
Boys golf will be the last spring team to get rolling, but they’ll tee off on another Rocori invitational on Friday, April 16.
It’ll be a welcome sight to have athletes back on the field, track, links and courts in just a few days. After witnessing so much heartbreak a year ago, especially for those graduating seniors, this year’s opportunity will be cherished by all the returners.
What’s also intriguing this spring, from a spectator’s perspective, is the mystery surrounding it. The last time any of these teams played, this year’s seniors were only sophomores. Many of them saw playing time awarded to the upperclassmen, and so programs will have entirely new faces leading the charge.
Who knows what to expect?
It was easier to predict when the past was so recent and familiar. The BHS softball team, for example, had eight seniors primed for a 2020 season that they figured to include a deep playoff run. The veteran squad figured to contend for a section championship and probably had their sights set on more.
Now, how well will a new batch of batters step up to carry on the program’s budding momentum?
Thankfully, we’ll actually get to find out.
Teams are already practicing, but starting Monday, we’ll see their readiness put to the test for the first time. If Lumberjack fans are lucky, they’ll see some hardware lifted high celebration just a few months later.
Of Bemidji’s spring sports, the softball program has the most recent section championship, which came in 2018. Boys track and field claimed the crown in 2017. The baseball team made a run all the way to the state title game in 2012, and the girls golf team won the section and state championships in 2004. The section title droughts get much deeper from there: Girls track last won it in 1987, while boys tennis has to reach back to 1973 for the latest known section title.
And yet, while there may be trophies up for grabs, state tournaments on the horizon and wins and losses at stake, this spring will largely be a collective celebration of something more meaningful.
The essence of high school athletics is having the opportunity to play. It’s about the joy of the sport and the love for the game.
My guess is the Jacks will have that in spades come Monday.