Weather wreaks havoc with sports schedules

by Tom Coombe

It’s almost taken for granted in northeastern Minnesota that high school spring sports are held hostage by the weather.<BR><BR>Coaches and athletes cross their fingers and hope for the snow to melt and fields to dry, and both postponements and make-up games and meets are accepted as a fact of life.<BR><BR>In the winter, when contests are conducted primarily in warm gymnasiums and enclosed arenas, weather-related postponements and scheduling difficulties would seem to be out of the ordinary.<BR><BR>Ely athletes, welcome to the out of the ordinary winter of 2004-2005.<BR><BR>First there was a lack of snow and later too much, then came freezing rain and icy roads and finally an Arctic-blast of cold air that created dangerous sub-zero windchill readings and led to the closing of schools around the Northland.<BR><BR>The result has been a series of weather-related athletic postponements that has forced high school athletic director Tim Omerza to use pencils and erasable markers when filling out his respective schedules.<BR><BR>The weather scrapped an entire weekend’s worth of activities from Jan. 13-15 and added to an already long list of postponements.<BR><BR>Hardest hit has been Ely’s high school boys basketball team.<BR><BR>“In the last 10 years I can specifically remember two postponements,” said Ely Head Coach Tom McDonald. “And now we’ve had three already this year.”<BR><BR>The postponements have come at inopportune times for the Wolves, who have played just 10 games of a 23-contest schedule.<BR><BR>A cold-weather postponement at Littlefork-Big Falls created to a two-week layoff in December, and after a holiday tournament finale was called off because of an ice storm, Ely was off for another nine days.<BR><BR>When the Wolves hosted Mt. Iron-Buhl Friday night, they returned to the hardcourt after 10 days off.<BR><BR>“I don’t really like it,” said McDonald. “At the beginning of the year, you like to have a lot of time between games. Now, especially after we’ve won a few in a row, I think the kids and everybody would like to keep playing.”<BR><BR>Instead of creating long layoffs, weather problems have cost Ely’s successful Nordic ski teams their only home appearances of the season.<BR><BR>A December home meet was moved from Ely to Giants Ridge because of a lack of snow, and the cold weather cancelled a Jan. 15 event that figured to draw the area’s top teams.<BR><BR>Because of a short window in the ski schedule, Ely won’t be able to make up the meets and local fans won’t get the chance to see the Wolves in action this season. The Ely girls team is the defending section champion and is coming off a third-place finish in the state in 2004.<BR><BR>Ely’s high school girls basketball team has also suffered its share of postponements, with a holiday tournament clash, a Jan. 13 date at Babbitt-Embarrass and a Jan. 15 date with Cook County all going by the wayside.<BR><BR>Only the Cook County game has been scheduled to be made up, as of late last week.<BR><BR>Perhaps the least affected by the weather has been the high school boys hockey team, which had just one contest - a Jan. 14 matchup with Eveleth-Gilbert - postponed.<BR><BR>Postponed...due to winter weather<BR><BR>Hockey<BR><BR>Jan. 14 vs. Eveleth-Gilbert; New date - to be determined<BR><BR>Boys Basketball<BR><BR>Dec. 21 at Littlefork-Big Falls; New date - Feb. 19, 2:45 p.m.<BR><BR>Dec. 30 vs. Mesabi Academy; New date - Jan. 28, 7 p.m.<BR><BR>Jan. 14 at Nash.-Kee.; New date - Feb. 5, 4:45 p.m.<BR><BR>Girls Basketball<BR><BR>Dec. 30 vs. Eveleth-Gilbert; New date - to be determined<BR><BR>Jan. 13 at Babb.-Emb.; New date- to be determined<BR><BR>Jan. 15 vs. Cook County; New date - Feb. 1, 6:45 p.m.<BR><BR>Nordic Skiing<BR><BR>Jan. 15 Ely Invitational; Won’t be rescheduled