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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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Spring Sports No Match For Mother Nature's Weather Wrath

Well, we're into the third week of April now and area high schools still have no definite start date for their spring sports.

Local athletes have been stuck indoors since the second week in March and they still haven't had any practice time outside. The baseball and softball teams have yet to shag fly balls on the field they'll compete on this season. The track athletes haven't had adequate time in the open air as they tune up for what promises to be a competitive 2013 season in the M-O. As for the local golf teams, if you've driven past any of the area's courses in recent days, you can imagine how tough it must be to know that, even as May approaches, courses are still a long way away from thawing out, let alone showing ideal conditions for playing golf. Little River, which serves as home course for the Peshtigo High links team, has yet to open in 2013.

"We've been able to practice a little bit in the school parking lot," said an almost dejected Bill Wickman, athletic director and assistant baseball coach at Peshtigo. "Baseball has done a bit of long throwing, maybe take some ground balls off of the blacktop, fly balls from the machine. Right now, that part of the practice is tough on the kids. They want to run. They want to compete."

Competition isn't happening anytime real soon and quite a bit has already been missed. As of now, Peshtigo softball should be six games into the season while the baseball team should have five games in the books. Participating athletes should be well into the daily routines that keep them in shape for their sports by now. Instead, they do what they can within the confines of a weather pattern that so far this spring, hasn't allowed for a single day in the 60-degree mark; local stretches of rivers have only recently began to flow after thawing out and the first several inches of earth remain frozen solid in much of Northeastern Wisconsin.

"I've spoke with Dave Marquardt of the Parks and Recreation Department and he's hoping that by Friday, we can get onto our fields," said Wickman, who is quick to mention that never in his 20 years as an educator, 14 of which he has held the title of athletic director, has he seen anything like this weather-induced delay to the spring sports schedule. "But of course, that's all depending on temperatures, how quick the snow melts and how fast the frost goes away. It's all in question."

Cancelled, cancelled, cancelled. It's a theme that has been giving prep athletic departments fits as of late. Area athletic directors have been meeting this week to work on rescheduling some of what has been missed but the logistics of replaying all of the events that have been lost so far will make that task all but unachievable. And it's the same for other conferences in the state. The Central Wisconsin Conference, both the large and small divisions including schools like Bonduel and Gresham, has decided to eliminate the first half of their baseball and softball seasons, only counting the last half. Any games played before the halfway mark will not be counted towards a CWC record.

Wickman has been in contact with coaches and administrators in the Bay Conference as well and reports that the athletic directors in that loop will be looking at measures similar to those already taken by the CWC. Already in M-O golf, the triangulars and quad events that would usually have counted towards the conference championship have been eliminated. If they end up happening, great. But they won't count towards a conference total. They'll use the two nine-hole conference events as well as the one 18-hole day of conference play to determine the M-O champ.

Perhaps most important, certainly not to be overlooked, is the fact that the young athletes themselves are way behind where they should be at this time of the year. The effort to get them as close to being ready for action when the late start to this spring's schedule finally kicks off has local school officials scrambling

"When you're trying to put together practices for two teams for baseball (varsity and JV), two teams for softball, middle school track and high school track, it gets tough when you're limited to the indoors," Wickman said. "There's no room in the gym and we're also used to being outside right now. Between the two indoor facilities we're using now, practice for our spring sports begins at 3:30. We don't finish until eight o'clock at night and we're rotating all of those teams through during that time."

All anyone can do is wait.

"Bottom line is, it's been a headache this year. We're running out of days to reschedule events,' Wickman said. "Most fields around here don't have lights so if you try to start the first game of a doubleheader at 4:30, most of the time you won't be able to get that second game finished before it's dark."


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