Ridgewater officials disheartened by cancellation of the 2020-21 sports year

College president decides there will be no activities for the entire school year because of the coronavirus pandemic
Erica Smith

WILLMAR — It was a tough Monday for Ridgewater athletic director Todd Thorstad, who spent the day talking to his coaches about what won’t happen in 2020-21: a college sports season.

“It was disheartening to all involved,” Thorstad said.

Craig Johnson, Ridgewater’s college president, announced Monday that all sports activities for the rest of the academic year are suspended because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Once I got word of it, I reached out to all involved,” Thorstad said. “There was a lot of disappointment.”

Men’s and women’s basketball and wrestling, all winter sports, have had their seasons canceled. Baseball and softball, Ridgewater’s two spring sports, are canceled for the second straight season.


The fall sports season, which includes volleyball and men’s and women’s clay target, had been canceled over the summer.

“For me being the volleyball coach, I can’t say this was too big of a shock,” said the Warriors’ Erica Smith. “Our season’s been canceled since June and July.

“I know other coaches are disappointed. It’s definitely tough. We’ve been having a lot of meetings in the athletic department.”

Thorstad said there was some hope among the coaches that winter sports would be played. He said he knows of other schools in Ridgewater’s region that are planning to go forward with winter sports.
“It’s been hard, but overall the athletes have been pretty understanding,” said Thorstad, who agreed that some student-athletes are likely to transfer.

About 80 student-athletes are expected to be affected. Smith said that she has been in contact with her volleyball players. She said all 11 expected to be on the team this fall are currently enrolled.

“And all of them are enrolled for the spring,” she said.

Thorstad said the NJCAA, the national sanctioning body that oversees Ridgewater athletics, is giving students an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic.Thorstad said they still have to pass 12 credits per semester and maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average.

However, there are spring sports athletes who might finish their education despite never actually getting a chance to play.


“I’m really feeling sad for the spring sports people,” Smith said.

Ridgewater’s baseball season was postponed in March before the Warriors had played a game. The softball team, meanwhile, played four games on its spring trip in Titusville, Florida, before the rest of the season was canceled.

Smith said she’ll continue to keep in contact with her team through text messages, phone calls and Zoom meetings. And, she’ll continue to recruit in that manner. College scouts, for the most part, have not been allowed to attend high-school volleyball matches in Minnesota because of state and Minnesota State High School League protocols.

“I’ve been streaming four or five matches a week,” Smith said. “It’s different.”

Thorstad said the silver lining is that Ridgewater will be completely ready to go once the OK is given to resume activities.

“Once we get a green light, it’ll be full speed ahead,” he said.

Smith said that she understood the school president’s decision, which was made after meetings with our state college presidents, as well as a college-wide survey.

“I get it,” she said. “But that doesn’t make it any easier for anyone.”



Tom Elliott has been the sports editor at the West Central Tribune since September 2019.
Contact him at or leave a message at 320-235-1150.
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