Late snow crimps outdoor practice

Teams still ahead of schedule from 2023 snowpack


April 5, 2024

Dave Harwig

Cloquet softball catcher Paige Goranson hits off a tee with help from teammate Morgan Olesiak during a March 11 practice at Braun Park.

Just a couple of weeks ago, spring sports teams were licking their chops because there was no snow on the ground. Teams were able to get outside and simulate gamelike conditions. Then Mother Nature decided to throw a curveball at local teams by dumping nearly 2 feet of snow on the region last week. Teams were suddenly pumping the brakes on the upcoming season.

The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys tennis team was excited about getting to practice on the new eight-court facility at Members Cooperative Credit Union athletic complex.

"Our first official day to practice was the Monday of the snowstorm, so everything was canceled," said CEC boys coach Derek Johnson. "The week before there were some captain's practices even though temperatures were quite cold."

CEC was expected to open the season on Thursday, April 4 at Rock Ridge at an indoor facility. Coaches hope to host a pair of matches on the Cloquet courts next week.

Over in Esko, coaches and athletes on the track team, along with custodial staff, were able to clear the track of most of last week's snow and now are hoping for some warm days to allow the team to use it.

"Cold affects sprint training more than the snow does," said Esko boys track coach Gary Beaudot. "Once the track is cleared, we have a place to sprint. Unfortunately, our spring break, and not having a surface for a few days, made us lose a week. We are an outdoor track team with all of our equipment out at the track. Our field events and hurdlers really feel the impact. Our custodial staff are the only ones allowed to use snow removal equipment on it, and thank goodness that happened."

Local baseball and softball teams are also feeling the impact. Down in Willow River, the Moose Lake/Willow River softball team saw the good and bad of local weather this past week.

"We were fortunate to be outside the first week of practice and one day the second week," said Rebels coach Kelly Goeb. "We have a couple of inches of snow on our field as of Monday, but hopefully it will melt by the end of the week."

Back in Cloquet, the Lumberjacks baseball team was excited about getting onto Ed Mettner Field early this season, but - like everyone else - they had to change plans while the snow melts.

"As of noon on Monday, we had about 6 inches of snow still on the field," said head coach Tyler Olin. "Mettner drains well, so I'd guess we can get out there next week if we get enough sun."

The 'Jacks have been pretty much acting as they do every year in late March and early April, putting in time in the gym. This year promises to offer much more time outdoors compared to the record amount of snow last winter, which left a heavy snowpack through April.

"I don't mind being inside," Olin said. "Last year I had to get creative, but we're used to having a month or so inside before getting out consistently. We were lucky to get out on the turf for a day or two before the snow came."

Contributed photo

Members of the Cloquet track and field team warm up on the new track and turf field earlier last month, when coaches thought the season might be entirely devoid of snow. Then a three-day storm covered everything up.

The Cloquet track team is itching to race on the new track at the complex.

"We did have some nice days on the track before the snow hit," said Cloquet coach Tim Prosen. "It is also now nice to have the turf to work out on, which cleans up the snow much quicker than the grass field would have."

Despite the snow, warmer weather since the storm last week had already started to expose areas of the track. Prosen thought the team would be able to use the track by the end of this week. Cloquet was on spring break last week into Monday of this week.

"With our nice forecast ahead, the sun will take care of things," Prosen said. "Even the kids taking a few laps on the light snow will quickly expose the black of the track."


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