AIHEC tribal event more than basketballLaura Sylvester, the assistant athletic director and both volleyball and softball coach at the college, said losing a little sleep was no problem in order to host the 32nd annual event for the first time in school history, as well as in the state of Minnesota.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET — Saturday afternoon, during the middle of a five-day, 19-team, 46-game men’s and women’s collegiate basketball tournament, Laura Sylvester admitted her secret.
“I usually stop drinking coffee around two in the afternoon, but I’ve been drinking it until 10 o’clock at night,” said Sylvester, who was the event coordinator and organizer for the American Indian Higher Education Consortium Basketball Championships at Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College last week in Cloquet. “It’s been four sleepless nights.”
Sylvester, the assistant athletic director and both volleyball and softball coach at the college, said losing a little sleep was no problem in order to host the 32nd annual event for the first time in school history, as well as in the state of Minnesota.
FDLTCC President Larry Anderson applied to host the event. When FDLTCC won the contract, Anderson contacted all of the nation’s interested tribal schools before handing things off to Sylvester, she said. Two-plus months of organizing led to the actual tournament, which ran March 13-17. On Saturday — once she had a break — Sylvester said it was all worth it.
“We’re so happy to have all of these teams from all over the country,” said Sylvester of the seven U.S. states represented in the field of teams. “It’s been so great for us to show off this campus, this community and this area.”
Growing up in Montana, Blackfeet Community College’s Randy Talks About came to Minnesota for the first time last week. He said his team stayed at nearby Black Bear Casino Resort and visited Lake Superior around scheduled game times.
“I’ve lived by the Rocky Mountains my entire life,” he said. “This is great. The snow reminds me of home a little bit.”
Mike Lafromboise is the coach of the Browning, Mont.-based tribal school, and explained he and his team took a 23-hour train ride from western Montana to eastern Minnesota.
“From cold, into more cold,” said Lafromboise. “There’s more snow where we live, but it is fun here — very relaxing.”
Blackfeet placed third in the men’s division, while Northwest Indian College captured its second straight tribal title by defeating Oglala Lakota 111-107 in overtime Sunday evening. Turtle Mountain topped Forth Berthold for the women’s title.
Each Thunder program participated, playing games at both FDLTCC and Fond du Lac Ojibwe School in Cloquet.
“It’s a long haul,” said FDLTCC Athletic Director Keith Turner, “but it’s interesting to see all of the talent that’s here.”
“Some teams fundraise all year to come to have this opportunity,” added AIHEC Athletic Commission member Eva Flying. “And it couldn’t have been in a better place this year.”
Even if Sylvester and all the volunteers emptied the coffee.
“This is worth it,” Sylvester said. “Our sleepless nights are nothing compared to the time the teams take to come play here.”