The final day of the North Dakota state high school track meet was scheduled to be held Saturday, May 23. The best of the best in Class A and Class B would be competing for state championships in Bismarck.
High school track, however, never started. The COVID-19 pandemic wiped out track, as well as all other high school spring sports in North Dakota and Minnesota.
Instead of champions being crowned, there are memories.
Here are the top state-meet memories of Greater Grand Forks high school track coaches, both as coaches and in their athletic careers.
Sean Allan, GF Central
Athlete: “My senior year was the first time the state meet was in Grand Forks. I remember walking onto the track at Memorial Stadium, thinking how it was by far the biggest stadium I’d run in to that point and how amazing it was set up.’’
Coach: “You remember your first state champion. That was Chris Zimmer. And I remember Nate Botnen and another athlete going back and forth in the javelin. Nate was second going into his last throw. He had to throw more than 190 feet to win, and he threw 200.’’
Jeff Bakke, Red River
Athlete: “I got to compete in the last state meet held in Grand Forks. That was pretty cool. And my senior year was a special memory. My grandfather, Arnie Bakke, worked at the state meet for 60 years as a starter and a marshall. He loved track. He was there on the track to see us win the 4x200 relay.’’
Coach: “In 2018 our javelin throwers finished 1-2-4-6 at state. As a group they were unheralded. They weren’t supposed to do that well. Liam Ogren was the champion; he was a bit of a surprise winning.’’
Tim Delmore, GF jumping coach
Athlete: “My senior year at Cando (in 1972), I won the high jump and set a state record. I went 6-3. It was so different then -- there was no such thing as jumping shoes, running surfaces were horrible and we landed in bags filled with foam chunks. I had the shoemaker in Cando sew sandpaper on the bottom of my shoes so my feet wouldn’t slip.’’
Coach: I’ve coached a lot of state jumping champions. Each one was exciting. Probably the most memorable was Josh Axelson. He was ranked 10th in the long jump entering state. He won, beating his personal record by 14 inches.’’
Liesa Hanson, EGF Senior High
Athlete: “My senior year (at Roseau) I won the 300 hurdles and set the state all-time record. That stood for a long time. It was a race where I hit each hurdle perfectly. When I won the 300s as a junior, our coach (Jeannie Glassmann) had a baby during the state meet. She was like three weeks early. She had it on the Friday night, then she came back Saturday to watch finals.’’
Coach: “Probably my biggest memory was when Erica Eades finished second in the 800 at state. She worked really hard to get her times down to where they were that year.’’
Tracey Heisler, Red River
Athlete: “My senior year was the first year the combined A-B state meet was held. To walk into Memorial Stadium as part of the parade of athletes, in front of all the fans, was quite an experience. The adrenaline was so high, being there with the best athletes in the state.
Coach: “The 4x400 is my favorite race. It’s such a gutsy race. It’s the last race of the two-meet and most of the kids have competed in a lot of events. And we’ve won it twice (2011 and 2015). Also, in 1995, Minot had dominated for years and we were leading after the first day. The kids were so proud. We wound up second. The next year we had a young, inexperienced team. But the kids exploded at state. We had PRs all over the place and we finished second again.’’
Kirk Misialek, EGF Senior High
Athlete: “Winning the long jump at state (competing for Grafton) was the highlight of my track career. Myself and a kid from Fargo South had a rivalry going all year. I won state on my final jump.’’
Coach: “We’ve taken a lot of kids to the state meet. We’ve never had a champion. One year we finished third in the 4x200 relay. We set a school record. If the race would have gone another 15 meters we might have won. We came on strong (with Travis Lueck running anchor) and had momentum coming to the finish line.’’
Eric Polries, GF Central
Athlete: “In my junior year (at Mayville-Portland-CG) I woke up on the second day of state feeling awful. I had some kind of stomach flu. I didn’t know how well I could do. But I wound up finishing third in the 3,200. I ran like a 9:42; I’d never run better than 10 minutes before.’’
Coach: “The most meaningful things are watching your own athletes compete. But it’s more relaxing watching other kids. One of the coolest races I remember was (Fargo South’s) Laura Roesler and (Minot’s) Morgan Milbrath finishing 1-2 in the 400. They both broke the state record and were within a few hundredths of a second of each other.’’