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Spring sports at a standstill

CLOQUET -- With her hair tied back and her grandpa's glove on her hand, Cloquet centerfielder Sammy Zeadow stood positioned left of the bleachers at Tuesday's softball practice.

CLOQUET -- With her hair tied back and her grandpa's glove on her hand, Cloquet centerfielder Sammy Zeadow stood positioned left of the bleachers at Tuesday's softball practice.

All practices for the Lumberjacks' spring sports programs -- and surrounding area -- have been inside this month, as snow banks still sit high, ice blankets the ground and temperatures remain bitter cold entering Easter Sunday and the beginning of April.

That's been quite a curveball from last spring's balmy forecast, when fourth-year Cloquet softball Coach Ron Tondryk had his team outdoors taking fly balls in late March and practicing at Braun Park in April.

"We've been out there on the grass by the third week before," Tondryk said Tuesday night. "It's going to take some nice weather, but we know getting outside is just around the corner. We just have to cover all of our bases in the gym first."

Being productive in the several gyms available at Cloquet High School is a philosophy Tondryk said he's always used, including last spring, on his team's run to the state tournament.

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"We keep it busy," said Tondryk of the 27 players he has working constantly on drills, strategies, situations and maybe soon shoveling the fields with the college and youth association. "Some of the older girls have been here for three, four years now, and are all continuing to get better. If we continue what we're doing we'll be ready to get outside for our opener."

While Tondryk's team opens play the second week of April, Tim Prosen and his Cloquet track and field team enter an indoor meet next Friday and are set to be outdoors the week after that.

"A lot of our equipment is still outside under the football bleachers inside a garage covered in several layers of ice," said Prosen, now in his ninth season with over 100 athletes out for the squad. "We're getting creative -- using the all three gyms, the hallways and the stairs -- but it's a waiting game."

Steve Rickstrom's Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys tennis team isn't waiting, but rather shoveling their courts off slowly he said, as Cloquet baseball Coach Rick Norrgard and assistants took a snow blower to Ed Mettner Field Sunday.

"People are going to think we're crazy," said Norrgard with a laugh. "We're just trying to speed things up the best we can."

Norrgard had a speedy start to his inaugural season coaching last spring, never once practicing indoors. He admitted he was spoiled, but noted, like Tondryk, there are advantages to the gym.

"It's not the worst," he said, "but I hope the snow melts."

"It's fun to get in the grass, on the dirt, put on my cleats and throw on a sweatshirt," said Zeadow, a junior, after practice. "I wish we could get outside sooner, but there is so much snow."

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For now, her position left of the bleachers will have to do.

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