Photo By Zachary Hanby
I never knew the true meaning of “March Madness” until I began editing this magazine. Yes, the men’s and women’s basketball teams play their conference tournament in early March for the right to play on in the NCAA Tournament. Yet, there is so much more to this month at NDSU. Wrestling, track & field, softball, baseball and golf are all in full swing this month. Both wrestling and track & field (indoor) compete in their postseason in March as well.
I learned firsthand just how busy the month of March was last year.
Both the Summit League Basketball Championships and Big 12 Wrestling Championships occur on the same weekend. The Bison wrestling team competes in Tulsa while the hoops teams play in Sioux Falls.
Many of you who know me, know that I take pride in being sort of a road warrior. I do everything I can to make it out to every NDSU sporting event, even if that means working 65 hours a week (as Michael Scott once said: “I don’t get paid by the hour anymore, I get paid by the year.”).
So last year, I decided I would cover both the Big 12 Wrestling Championships and the Summit League Tournament. I would do this by first driving to Tulsa, Oklahoma (just over 800 miles) and stopping in Sioux Falls on the way back to Fargo to cover the remainder of the conference basketball tournament.
The wrestling tournament begins on a Saturday and ends Sunday evening. I took that Friday off of work, woke up at 3 a.m. and took off on the near 13-hour drive for Tulsa. Was I crazy for attempting to do it in one day? Yes, but you’ll learn that I did far crazier things on this excursion.
The first half of the drive went by quickly. I was of the impression that Interstate 29 took me straight to Tulsa, so I was not using a map or anything. For those who have taken this drive before, you’ll know that you actually hop on Interstate 35 in Omaha which takes you to Tulsa faster. I did not do that, I stayed on I-29.
To make a long story short, it was not until I reached Kansas City that I pondered “why am in Missouri? I’m going to Oklahoma.”
Now, you can still get to Tulsa from I-29, but it forces you to take a few state highways in Kansas to get there. For those who have never driven in the backroads of Kansas, I would not recommend it (no offense to those fine Kansas natives). Anyway, after getting turned around a few times in Kansas, I made it to Tulsa after around 14 hours on the road.
Over the next two days, I covered probably close to 20 hours of Big 12 wrestling. By Sunday, NDSU had two wrestlers in the Big 12 finals. Meanwhile, NDSU basketball was getting set to play Oral Roberts at the Summit League Tournament. That result would determine if I would head to Sioux Falls that night or head home the following day.
Obviously, the NDSU men ended up beating Oral Roberts about halfway through the final session of the Big 12 finals. I swiftly booked a hotel in Sioux Falls before Andrew Fogarty’s match at 165 pounds. Following Fogarty’s match, I packed up and hit the road with half a tank of gas. It was around 9 p.m. Sioux Falls is nine hours from Tulsa.
Again, I must say this because it is so vital to the story: I am a psychopath.
As I took the correct way back to Sioux Falls, I noticed I was running low on gas. My gas light came on while driving in the middle of nowhere in Kansas at 10:30 p.m. There was 20 miles left in the car. I pulled up my phone map and did not see a gas station anywhere. Needless to say, expletives were uttered along with this phrase:
“I’m going to die on the side of the road in Kansas.”
Luckily, I was able to find a gas station in Yates Center, Kansas (oddly enough, it was a Jumpstart) with three miles left in the tank. I drove through the night only stopping for gas and once in Sioux City, Iowa, at around 4 a.m.
Arriving in Sioux Falls at around 6 a.m., I sat in the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center parking lot and napped until I could check into my hotel. Upon checking into my hotel at 9 a.m. I crashed and woke up in time to get to NDSU’s semifinal tilt with Western Illinois that evening.
The following day, the Bison beat Omaha to win the Summit League title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament. I drove back to Fargo that night and was at my desk at 7 a.m. the next morning. It was almost as if nothing had happened over the past five days.
In total (including the ensuing NCAA Tournament run), I traveled through 14 different states last March. It gave me a great appreciation for the travel NDSU student-athletes, coaches and staff go through in a given season (especially track & field, softball, golf and baseball).
Would I do it again though? Absolutely. Why? Because that’s the madness of March, it just comes with the territory.
It also helps if you’re a little mad yourself…