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MARCH MANIA PHOTO CONTEST: The Biggest College Basketball Fan

The spring sports season is here (in theory, anyway)

Worthington High School softball players play toss inside the school gymnasium. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

High school spring athletic teams have begun to practice, and the first actual varsity events are scheduled for late this month.

But this is Minnesota, and you know what that means.

A harsh winter, with heavy snowfall and cold temperatures, has convinced many sports fans that spring could arrive especially late this year. Welcome melting took place on Tuesday, however, but rain and more snow returned later in the week.

Dane Nielsen, athletic director at Windom Area High School, said that his first thought was that the season won’t get really started until the middle of May. On Wednesday, he was feeling a bit more encouraged.

“I like the slow melt that’s taking place,” he said.

Nielsen, a 1996 graduate of WAHS, still believes that the first week of April is probably “gone,” and maybe the week after that. But even there, he’s hedging his bets, preferring to be on the optimistic side of the equation.

In Adrian, high school athletic director Jay Wange was standing on the cautious side at midweek.

“I think we’re in trouble,” he said.

Wange said he talked to a few farmers from the area, wondering whether the rain that fell on Wednesday would help or hurt the situation. Saturation, they said, was a problem. The ground doesn’t need any more rain.

Adrian has it better than some schools in the region. Its baseball field dries faster than most, which influences other schools to schedule early-season games there when other fields are still wet. The Dragons play their softball in Ellsworth, and the situation there is not so fortunate.

Nielsen’s situation is uniquely challenging. Windom’s Island Park, where the Eagles play their football and baseball games, succumbed to serious flooding last year which resulted in a major rehabilitation effort. The park isn’t ready for play yet; more renovations are on tap. And all the spring high school and softball games will be played at the recreation area on the other side of town.

Disruptions are tough on the kids, Nielsen said, recalling how some of the school’s athletes -- like senior Alex Borsgard, a standout wrestler and football player -- have had their seasons greatly affected by the weather. There were no football games at Island Park during this school year, and because of the rough winter, Windom only hosted one wrestling meet.

Island Park’s proximity to the Des Moines River makes it particularly susceptible to flooding. But the baseball field is regarded as one of southwest Minnesota’s gems. Located right off Highway 60, it’s a legitimate town treasure.

No doubt, 2018 isn’t far away from the thoughts of both Nielsen and Wange.

“Last year,” the Adrian AD, “we didn’t get outside for the first time till April 30th. April 30th!” he exclaimed.

“As an athletic director, one of the big headaches I have is to schedule gym time,” Wange continued. “Usually the winter is the hardest time of the year. This is supposed to be the easiest time for athletic directors. But because the weather we had last year, I’m already pessimistic.”

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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