By STU SWARTZ
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Spring weather is on the way. You can count on it.
Not soon enough, though, for our local high school spring sports teams which have been confined mostly to indoor pre-season activity.
While girls softball teams from West Noble and Goshen did brave the elements for a Friday season opener, cold temperatures and snow on the ground have created “cabin fever” among our student-athletes and their families.
In Goshen, Foreman Field (boys and girls track), Phend Field (baseball), Shanklin Park (girls softball), Maplecrest (boys golf) and the Goshen Middle School courts (girls tennis) are spring sports venues which have been mostly silent.
We were spoiled a year ago when there were daily record high temperatures in the 70s and 80s during an uncharacteristic month of March.
During a long journalistic career, which is continuing here in retirement on a part-time basis, it always seemed like the spring sports season was like “Happy New Year.”
While basketball, wrestling and swimming were always enjoyable events to cover, it was always refreshing to head outdoors for the dawn of spring sports.
The spring season is a short one, about six weeks leading up to tournament activity, but it is very hectic with some of the teams playing three or four times per week.
Before the 1960s, boys track and field and baseball were the only sports on the spring sports slate. Boys golf was added in the early 1960s with girls track and softball following in the next decade.
Goshen High School’s boys and girls track and field teams are scheduled to compete Tuesday at West Noble in Ligonier with Lakeland visiting Foreman Field on Thursday.
The regular season highlight in boys track will be the 71st edition of The Goshen Relays on Saturday, April 20 with Northern Lakes Conference championships at Warsaw on May 7 and sectional at Goshen on May 16.
The Goshen Relays have lost some magic since the downfall of the Gary Roosevelt program. The Panthers, who won 26 Class A team championships, were a big crowd draw for the annual carnival at Foreman Field.
It was 50 years ago that Hank Clason was honorary referee for The Relays and Marilyn Marquis queen. Hal Peck was honorary referee and Jennifer Roth queen 25 years ago.
The Lady Redskins also host a GHS Relays on May 4 with the NLC at Warsaw on May 7 and sectional at Warsaw on May 14.
Baseball enters its 47th year of having a state tournament. It was about that time the facility across from Goshen High School was renovated and named Phend Field in honor of teacher and coach Jim Phend who had died in 1967.
Our first assignment for The News was a baseball game between the Redskins and Mishawaka Cavemen on April 11, 1966 at the Goshen College diamond.
Softball has grown steadily in popularity with Goshen having an All-State pitcher in Natalie Newell from 2008-11. The Northridge Raiders are expected to field another strong team in 2013.
Covering a high school boys golf match at Maplecrest can be a treat. Some players of today, growing up with the new equipment, can drive par-four greens at the Goshen course on Hackett Road.
Redskin tennis has settled into a new home on the Goshen Middle School campus after previous stints at locations like Rogers Park, Goshen College, GHS near the former shop building and Phend Field where buses are now parked.
Be sure to visit spring sports sites at your favorite school — when sunshine and warmer temperatures arrive as they will.