Photo By Miranda Sampson/Inertia
The last few weeks have been tough. For North Dakota State athletics, its student-athletes, coaches and administration, “tough” may be an understatement. As someone who writes words for a living, “tough” is the best word I can come up with. When I think about the last few weeks, I am oftentimes at a loss for words, truthfully. I still have yet to process it all.
And I’m not even a student-athlete or coach at North Dakota State. I am just a guy who gets a front-row seat to see the fruits of hard labor play out in the field of competition. What I and so many do not see, is how much work student-athletes, coaches and administration put in away from the floor.
They are in the gym before practice, getting extra reps in the weight room, writing game notes, balancing budgets, creating marketing campaigns and fulfilling academic goals off the floor. That is a small sampling of the things that go into North Dakota State’s athletic success. No one outside of the athletic department will truly know the scope and hard work it takes to be as successful as NDSU is.
When the NCAA and Summit League decided to cancel championship and regular-season competition for the remainder of the winter and spring seasons, it floored many. The reasoning was sound, given the current state of affairs going on in our country and abroad. However, it left North Dakota State athletics and the community that supports them in utter shock.
There would no longer be an NCAA Tournament appearance for the Bison men’s basketball team. Roger Kish and his wrestlers would not be able to compete on their home turf at the national tournament in Minneapolis. Bison track & field athletes would not be able to battle for national titles. NDSU softball was unable to add to their dominating Summit League streak. Bison baseball could no longer continue their quest to the top of the conference standings. Golf ended their season without the opportunity to regain the conference crown.
It all just ended, over a three day period in March.
As I attempted to process all of this, I could only think of the seniors. Knowing that student-athletes like Tyson Ward, Vinnie Shahid Maddy Nilles, Cam Sykora, Andrew Fogarty, Madyson Camacho, Bennett Hostetler, Camryn Roadley, Andrew Israelson and so many others would not get to play their full season, tore me to shreds, honestly. When you see even a sliver of the work these kids put in, you would feel the same way.
That led to a difficult decision for me as editor of this magazine. I battled with myself for days on end as to whether we should run this magazine or not. On the one hand, I felt photographing and interviewing student-athletes about their success felt wrong. These student-athletes are upset, sad and angry as some of them grieve the end of their athletic careers. As a magazine that promotes the positives, I felt it was disingenuous given that this is such a negative situation. It did not feel fair to the student-athletes to publish this magazine, and I always have their best interest at heart first and foremost.
However, we could use this issue as a platform to honor those student-athletes in some way. They no doubt deserve the recognition considering how much time and effort they have put into North Dakota State. The main battle for me was to try and make it appropriate for the situation with the correct tone. Obviously, that was easier said than done.
The result for us is something that I believe promotes positivity for these student-athletes, coaches, administration and fans. It’s a collection of moments and memories that will forever be etched in North Dakota State’s history. These student-athletes who had their seasons and careers cut short have their own place in NDSU history. Just because their season was ended abruptly does not mean what they did before is invalid. All of it is valid and it all matters.
This collection of photos is an homage to student-athletes, coaches and programs of the last few seasons. The past few years have brought tremendous highs to North Dakota State. One low (and it is a low) cannot overwrite that and it cannot deter from the future ahead. We have to keep that in mind no matter how close to rock bottom we may get.
Bison pride is what makes NDSU athletics successful year after year. That pride will never waver regardless of circumstances.
Thank you to all those student-athletes, coaches and administration. Your hard work and dedication mean more than you may ever know. Never forget that and never forget what you accomplished in 2019-20 and throughout your respective careers. While you may be hurting now, I promise there are brighter days ahead.
Create your own future…