Ironwood tried snowblowing the track at Longyear Field Monday.
“It didn’t really go too good,” Ironwood athletic director Gordy Erickson said. “It’s all thick, heavy and icy. We are at an absolute standstill.”
The WIAA softball regional tournament starts about a week early this year, May 16. That’s a month from Tuesday and the start of the season isn’t in sight.
With another snowstorm forecast to continue today on top of feet of hard-packed snow and ice, spring sports on the Gogebic Range may still be weeks away.
It’s not that it’s so unusual for snow to hit this area in April, or for winter to stubbornly hang on for what seems like forever. But Ironwood has seen just one 50-degree high temperature all spring, it’s been cold day and night and the snow keeps coming. The warmest forecast high in the seven-day forecast is 41 degrees, Monday, when it’s supposed to snow.
When it’s still bad here, teams often start their seasons away from the snowbelt in places like Drummond or Solon Springs. Not this year. No one is playing, unless it’s inside or really far south.
“This is one of the worst and this is my 25th year,” Hurley softball coach Jim Kivisto said. “There’s no sight of getting on the field, especially with the big storm coming. It backs you up three, four, five days every time. It’s very frustrating.
“It’s coming down to where you’re going to have to squeeze the whole schedule into 2 1/2 to 3 weeks.”
That will probably mean games on Wednesdays and Saturdays to get all the Indianhead Conference games played, Erickson said. The baseball and softball schedules kicked into high gear this week, but spun its wheels as no games were actually played.
Will anything be held in April this year?
“Not only does it have to melt, it’s going to have to dry up,” Erickson said. “Being a track coach and athletic director, I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s so stubborn. It will not budge.”
The Ironwood track-and-field team competed in two indoor meets this season with some area teams headed to Marquette later in the month for a meet in the Superior Dome.
Bessemer track coach Mark Mazzon said runners have been able to run on bare roads for practice. That beats running inside where runners could develop shin splints. The poor weather has thus far only affected pole vault and discus.
“Other than last year, which was a fluke, we deal with it almost every year,” Mazzon said. “We learn to deal with it.”
At least most sports don’t have to worry about early starts like Wisconsin softball.
“It doesn’t benefit us at all,” Kivisto said. “It doesn’t benefit anybody in the whole state. I don’t think too many teams have played.”
The Midgettes have been practicing outside in the parking lot, which has been better than the gym, Kivisto said. Last year, the first practice was on the field when it eclipsed 80 degrees in March and all the snow melted.
“We were really spoiled last year,” he said. “Right now, it could be three weeks before we get on our field. This is very extreme.”
It may come down to just playing conference games. Ironwood cancelled a non-conference softball game scheduled to be in Hayward this week. All Ironwood and Hurley games were not played this week. A track meet at Northwestern Monday is already canceled. Ironwood hasn’t officially postponed next week’s games, but Erickson said that’s coming, too.
“If I was a younger coach, I’d probably be stressing over this,” Kivisto said. “There’s nothing you can really do. Try to keep the kids fresh, not over work them right now. Just get them ready so when the season starts they’re ready to go.”
Should the snow melt some time, track-and-field would be the first sport to start, Erickson said.
“All of the other ones involve fields,” he said. “It’s just the wet and sogginess. That’s the hard part. That’s our biggest concern. We can make adjustments in the field events, do high jump and other things inside.”
It may be awhile before long jump and triple jump start in Hurley with a snowbank so high on the pits that the best pole vaulters might not be able to clear it.
Soccer nets are full of snow on the field behind the Hurley school. The track is there — somewhere.