When Red River overflowed, youth came running
Where it sits, Fargo/Moorhead just asks for trouble.
The flatland twin towns straddle the Red River, lazy in summer but a hellion come spring.
Neither city has protected itself with permanent levees or a diversion canal substantial enough to keep the river in its channel. When the surge came last week, it was all hands on deck.
Cue the college crowd.
Alyssa Dahl, a senior marketing major at Concordia College where she started four years in hockey, three in volleyball: "I'd just got back from the (hockey) Final Five (in St. Paul), when I got a call from friends. Water was approaching houses in North Moorhead. They'd dump sand in a driveway and there were forty college students passing sandbags. We'd go three or four hours. Sometimes, you just go out and see someone and ask if they need help. I saw a lot of (other college students from Willmar), like Luke Okland and Kaley Hanson. I think Mandi Samuelson was out a lot. They called off school last week and this week. I was evacuated out of my house -- we got everything off the floor -- and am staying with (my older sister) Danielle, whose apartment wasn't at risk. It was really cool how students come together from NDSU, Moorhead State and Concordia, plus high-school kids. It made us feel part of the community. I don't think (the two cities) could have done this without us."
Danny Swanson, a sophomore hockey player at Concordia: "We evacuated Friday and I'm back in Willmar now. There were tons of kids out on the sandbag lines. The adults just kind of told us what to do. You'd go five or six hours at a time. It was tiring; your fingers got cold. You'd see kids from all over, including Spuds (from Moorhead High). It was kind of cool, though, how we came together. But the scene is unreal; a blizzard and a flood at the same time."
Sam Sussenguth, a junior basketball player at NDSU. He played 15 minutes in the Bison loss to Kansas in NCAA Tournament. Three days later, coach Saul Phillips and the Bison made up an unusually tall sandbag brigade: "It's not that much fun in the cold and wet. It's like an assembly line; the closer you are to the next person, the easier it is, so numbers help a lot. You'd do it for three or four hours and you're soaking wet and than you go home and change and go back."
Tony Neumann, a four-year wrestler at Concordia who finished with 103 wins, is an education/coaching major: "All last week we were sandbagging. Everyone in the community. I was over in South Fargo, too. You could work as long as you wanted and there was always plenty of food. It was fulfilling helping. There were a lot of athletes out there, but it was all kinds of people. I went to the library on Sunday and no one was there; everyone was still out sandbagging. Without college students, I really think, they'd be underwater here."
This is a sample of the teens and young men and women who pitched in to help two cities avoid catastrophe. They don't seem overly impressed with what they contributed. To them, it was just the right thing to do.
Jeremy Negen (WHS 1996), who caught for the Minnesota Gophers baseball team, is an assistant coach on the Bloomington Jefferson team that upset Henry Sibley of Mendota Heights in the Class AAAA hoops quarterfinals last week.
That followed wins against two other top-ten teams, Edina and Eden Prairie, in Section 2.
"We got hot at the right time," said Negen, who is in his seventh year teaching physical education and coaching.
"I don't plan to coach baseball this spring," he said. "This is my fourth year with the Jordan Brewers and we'll be playing 40 to 50 games."
Negen was a two-time baseball MVP at Willmar. He quit basketball to concentrate on baseball his senior year, working out with the college team before school.
He was the Gophers' main backstop in the late nineties. He is married to high-school classmate Erica Olson, a claims adjuster in Eden Prairie.
On the fly
n The posting for the head football coaching opening at Willmar High went up this week. but activities director Jamie Thompson said interviews are still a ways off. Both teachers and non-teachers may apply. But the process is still waiting to see which teaching positions will open through retirement and restructuring due to budget cuts. One member of former head coach Ken Heitzman's staff that will apply is sophomore coach Doug Doering.
n Mark Krogstad (WHS '03) will coach the Willmar Rails this season. He played baseball at Augustana College and for the Rails. He is in his second year of law school at the University of North Dakota. Until he returns in late May, former manager Rick Schwantes said interested players may contact him at 320-235-7956 (home) and 320-231-7175 (work).
n Ridgewater College wrestling team posted a team average GPA of 2.9, 10th in the nation among participating NJCAA teams. Eight Warriors, announced earlier, were on the Coach's Association All-Academic team.