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Gov. Tim Walz is expected today to extend and modify his stay-at-home order set to expire Friday. Those modifications have possible implications for Minnesota high school spring sports, which were shut down until May 4 when the governor put the order into effect. Last week, Walz signaled a “relatively slim’’ chance schools would abandon distance learning for the rest of the school year, an assessment that increases the chance of spring sports being canceled. Come back to later today for updates.

Ice breakers, activities designed to bond a team, were what Maddie Dahlien remembers about the first few Edina track and field practices last spring.

Not this year. Not with the COVID-19 pandemic bearing down and triggering school closures elsewhere in the United States. The varsity track and field season, which started March 9, was all about getting athletes into training habits they would be forced to maintain on their own should practices be suspended.

“We hit it hard right away and got into a rhythm,” said Dahlien, a sophomore, of the season’s first three weeks.

Then on March 25, the closure of schools, and resulting suspension of team practices, was extended to May 4. For athletes such as Dahlien, who excels in two sports, the situation presents double the challenge.

As a ninth-grader last spring, Dahlien placed second at the Class 2A track and field state meet in the 100-, 200- and 400-yard dashes. Last fall she led Edina’s soccer team with 23 goals. She also plays a big role in the success of the Minnesota Thunder Under-16 club soccer team, ranked first in the Champions League.

Her Thunder teammate, Lakeville North freshman goalkeeper Bayliss Flynn, is striving to improve on the pitch as well as in cross-country and track and field.

“It’s mentally challenging, but I enjoy getting better. I do miss my teammates, though.”
Bayliss Flynn, Lakeville North ninth-grader

They’ve worked out together about a dozen times since team practices were halted, including once on the soccer field at the Edina High School campus this week, with Dahlien taking shots on Flynn while adhering to social distancing.

“It is nice to have at least one teammate to work with,” Flynn said. “It is great bonding time with her.”

Both athletes have committed themselves to developing in multiple sports, allotting time for each at different points within the same day. But these driven individuals miss their teammates.

“It’s tough not seeing them,” Dahlien said. “They are what I enjoy about every day.”

Flynn said, “Having teammates with you adds to the level of competition and fun.”

Both athletes train with overall fitness, plus the more technical aspects of their soccer positions, in mind.

Already one of the state’s top sprinters, Dahlien said her efforts this spring “focus more on track.” She completes her more taxing sprint workouts earlier in the week. She also works out two or three times per week in her basement.

“And I get touches on the ball every single day,” Dahlien said. “Whether it’s juggling or going to the park to shoot on my dad or to practice passing with accuracy.”

Flynn’s new routines are similar. The basement weight room and treadmill in her house provide ample workout equipment. She takes her longer runs outside, through her neighborhood streets in Lakeville. She gets her repetitions in goal at the park, blocking her father’s shots or less frequently, Dahlien’s.

“I’m good with it,” Flynn said of the new reality. “It’s mentally challenging, but I enjoy getting better. I do miss my teammates, though.”

Dahlien can relate to the challenges of flying solo:

“I’ve definitely noticed a need to find more self-motivation with online school and time management.”

While Dahlien is established on her varsity soccer and track teams, Flynn is still trying to make her mark — plus she also has cross-country. She did not garner any varsity minutes in goal last fall. Her best cross-country and track performances are solid for her age group but still outside the qualifying standards for the state meet. She was all-conference in the South Suburban last spring and finished sixth in the 800 in the section race. Last fall she placed 25th in her cross-country section meet.

But Flynn, playing a year up on the Minnesota Thunder, has drawn college interest for her role in the team’s 16-0-1 record and eight goals allowed.

However, the national turmoil caused by COVID-19 hampered her ability to make deeper connections with prospective college programs. She missed out on a Yale camp and unofficial recruiting visits to Brown, Dartmouth and Harvard.

To stay connected with their other high school peers, both Dahlien and Flynn are texting teammates, relying on Zoom for video chats and, FaceTime more than ever.

For Dahlien, getting back to a circle of teammates, face-to-face, sharing their favorite ice cream flavor, track and field events and subjects in school, is as much a goal as continuing her dual-sport excellence.

“It’s funny to see,” she said, “how much we miss human interaction.”