A changing sports landscape

Marvin Baker

If you think about sports in North Dakota in 1960 vs. today, it was drastically different and continues to change.

There were almost twice the number of schools in the state, there were three state boys basketball tournaments and it wasn’t always the “big” towns that were winning games.

In the official report of the North Dakota High School Activities Association from 1960, the Class C District 6 boys basketball tournament is one example of how things have changed.

Calvin, Sarles, Wales, Osnabrock, Alsen, Hannah, Egeland, Hansboro and Starkweather all had teams of their own.

Moving over to District 13, it was Portal, Lignite, Ambrose, Noonan, Tolley, Flaxton, Donnybrook and Fortuna.

Anybody remember any of these communities competing in high school sports? Keep in mind, these were the teams that made the tournaments. There were other schools that didn’t.

My favorite had to be a team from District 3 that made it to the semifinals before losing. It was Ayr (Cass County) and guess what their nickname was? You guessed it, the Ayr Rifles.

Class B had some teams I’ll bet you’ve never heard of either, such as Havana, Lefor, Valley City College High School, St. Alphonsus, Dakota Lutheran, Upham, St. Anthony, Campus High and Assumption Abbey.

And here are some Class A schools from 1960, as noted in the High School Activities handbook; Rugby, Harvey, Grafton and St. James of Grand Forks.

Other schools in North Dakota that weren’t listed in the basketball tournaments: Alkabo, Antler, Balta, Bergen, Bordulac, Braddock, Cathay, Carpio, DeLamare, Erie, Forbes, Gilby, Golva, Guelph, Hague, Hastings, Kathryn, Kensal, Landa, Monango, Noltimier, Nortonville, Notre Dame, Palermo, Scranton, Souris, Svea, Tagus, Unity, Versippi, Walcott, Wheatland, Woodworth and Zap.

We all know about Zip to Zap in 1969, but how about the rest of those communities and/or schools with special names? All of these schools had sports teams that competed in North Dakota athletics in some capacity.

Does anyone have any memories of any of these communities? Braddock had the Bobcats, Hague had the Patriots and Carpio had the Cardinals.

Challenge yourself and try to find some of these communities, and here are some hints. Noltimier was Valley City, Souris is a small border town in Bottineau County, Tagus was a small town between Berthold and Stanley and Woodworth is a small town in Stutsman County.

Now, as we continue to use 1960 as a reference, these are some of the communities that were too small to have a school or sports team.

They included Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide Township, Ruso, Churchs Ferry, Grano, Kief, Overly, Gascoyne and Leal.

If you look at how things have gone in the past few years, you’ll notice the stark difference in the sports landscape as well.

Devils Lake used to have two schools in Central and St. Mary’s. Now, the Devils Lake school is co-oping with Rugby and Cando in hockey.

Can you imagine, Strasburg, with a population of barely 600 at the time, was supporting two high schools in St. Benedict’s and Strasburg Public. New England had a public school and New England St. Mary’s and Langdon had a public school and St. Alphonsus Catholic.

Today, Osnabrock, Milton, Edmore, Border Central and Munich have all merged together with Langdon and are collectively called Langdon Area-Edmore-Munich in sports.

Back in 1960, today’s three largest schools in the state in Fargo Davies, Bismarck Century and West Fargo Sheyenne, didn’t exist. In fact, West Fargo public had 14 seniors in 1960. This year there are 709 seniors.

The other interesting thing about comparing 1960 and now is scoring. Boys basketball games would often be 32-28, or 41-40 or even 27-23. Imagine watching 32 minutes of basketball and seeing only 50 points scored?

Regarding track, Robert Ingstad from Valley City set a record in javelin at 177 feet in 1960. By 1977, Mark Fischer of Hague had shattered that record. Records were retired in 1990, however, when a rubber tip was added to the javelin.

We’ve also seen some high school teams score more than 100 points in a basketball game.

Today, we also have the “hyphen bowl” in football and it’s getting to be that way in basketball and hockey as well.