Posted 9/08/15 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
The Alexander Comets are back!
After a very long 11-year hiatus since Alexander High School has fielded its own varsity sporting teams, the school’s gymnasium was rocking with a packed crowd as the Comets took on the Trenton Tigers in varsity volleyball action on Tuesday, Sept. 1.
And the significance of the rebirth of high school sports to the school and the community wasn’t lost on the players getting ready to take to the court, their coach, or diehard Alexander Comets’ fans.
“This is a big day for Alexander High School,” stated Leslie Bieber, Alexander Public School District No. 2 superintendent. “Today is a promise to Alexander’s future. It’s a return of an identity to the community that has been missing for the past 11 years.”
To anyone who lives in a rural North Dakota community, they know that their high school sports teams are the tie that binds the community together. The high school gymnasium and athletic fields become the community gathering place where they cheer on their youngsters through victory or defeat. Sports become the venues where parents and fans can watch high school athletes mature into young adults. And memories are made.
Like so many other small North Dakota communities, declining enrollment was what forced Alexander to finally fold its high school sporting programs. When the school system no longer had enough high school students to field teams in basketball, football and volleyball, the school district entered into a sports co-op program with Watford City High School.
But thanks to oil development in McKenzie County, Alexander’s student numbers came bouncing back. With high school enrollment growing, last year the Alexander school board decided that with the start of the 2015-16 school year, the Comets would return.
Alexander’s school system had 209 students enrolled as of Sept. 1, compared to 174 students on the last day of school this spring.
Bieber understands the importance of the return of high school sports, not only to her students, but also to the community.
“It was a very emotional day for us on Tuesday when we held our first Pep Rally in 11 years,” stated Bieber. “The amount of school spirit that our students showed was just amazing.”
And the historic return of the Comets wasn’t lost on the players or fans either.
For Andrina Turnquist and Nicole Hall, Alexander juniors, who are leading the Comets’ team onto the court this season, Tuesday’s game was emotional.
“I’ve always wanted to play sports for Alexander,” stated Turnquist, who suited up in an Alexander Comets’ uniform for the very first time. “I’m a native of Alexander. And I’ve never been able to wear a Comets’ uniform. This is a special day.”
Likewise, for Hall being able to play sports in Alexander was a dream come true.
“We really want to do well as a team not only for the school, but also for the community,” stated Hall. “It’s going to be fun to have the Comets back.”
And for diehard Alexander fans, like Ray Powell, who helped pack the gym to see the Comets take to the court, the return of sports to their school was something that they had missed more than they had realized.
“I love it!” stated Powell, a 1967 graduate of Alexander High School. “It’s great. You don’t know how much you missed it until it’s back.”
For the 2015-16 school year, the Comets will be fielding varsity teams in girls volleyball, boys and girls basketball, as well as competing in 6-man football.