Editor's note: In this series, the Grand Forks Herald's veteran sports staff ranks its top five memorable games or moments. Herald sports reporter Greg DeVillers continues his list with this No. 2 memorable event.
Grand Forks Red River waited 16 years before the Roughriders won their first high school boys state track championship -- and waited an extra 30 or so minutes after the meet concluded before the Roughriders could claim that title.
In one of the zaniest endings of any event I’ve covered in my 44 years on the Herald sports staff, Grand Forks Red River came from behind in the final event to win the 1983 Class A boys high school track meet with 66.5 points. The Roughriders edged Fargo South and Bismarck High, who tied for second, by just 1.5 points.
The outcome wasn’t decided until the final event, the 4x400 relay, was run and a crazy finish was sorted out.
Red River went into the 4x400 needing two things to happen to win the state title -- finish no lower than third in the race and finish within one place of Bismarck. The Roughriders failed, as the quartet of Dan Larson, Brian Hoffman, Mike Vetter and Kirk Demarais finished fourth, one spot behind the Demons.
But it didn’t end there. On the final exchange, a Fargo North runner left his lane, leaving the track and interfering with a Bismarck runner. What ensued was 30 minutes of appeals, discussions and study of the rule book.
North, which crossed the finish line first in the relay, unsuccessfully appealed its disqualification. Then Bismarck appealed, claiming it could have finished higher had it not been for the interference.
Finally, meet referee Bob King ruled that Bismarck could run the race again, by itself, and would have to take the time of the second race.
The Demons declined. Red River moved up from fourth to third because of North’s disqualification and had itself a state title. That capped a season in which Red River won every meet in which it participated.
“I went into the meet figuring there was no way we could not win it,’’ Red River assistant coach Tim Delmore said, looking back. “Then we had a poor first day and, by the middle of the second day, I was thinking there was no way we could win it. It was amazing.’’
Red River had two individual champions. Paul Helgeson won the pole vault. Scott Schiller, after becoming the first North Dakota high school athlete to clear 7 feet the previous week at the Eastern Dakota Conference region meet, set a state meet record in winning the high jump with a 6-foot-9.25 leap.
Red River throwers had dominated all season. But the Riders scored 24 points on the track, 22.5 in the jumping events and 20 in the throwing events at state.
“The runners have been overshadowed all year, but they came through in the clutch here,’’ Red River head coach Bob Zimney said after the meet.
“We had hoped to score some points on the track because our runners have done well lately. But this exceeded anything we had hoped for. I figured if we got 20 points from our runners at state it would be a good showing.’’
The championship in track came after a school year of near misses. Red River had been runner-up in the state football playoffs and the state boys hockey tournament. The Riders had their best showing ever at the state wrestling tournament, but that was good only for third place.
Ironically, Red River won the title, but didn’t bring home the championship trophy. The team trophies hadn’t arrived in Dickinson in time for the meet. They were mailed to the schools later.
Herald Top 5 Lists
2. A crazy finish gives Red River its first state track title in 1983