Billings Invitational

Hardin's Keyshawn Rogers beats Lewistown's Jalen Robinson in the boys varsity race at the Billings Invitational cross country meet at Amend Park on Aug. 30, 2019.

BILLINGS — Last Friday, Hardin athletic teams were preparing to spend the next two weeks unable to compete. This Friday, the Bulldogs hosted a golf tournament and a cross country meet.

Hardin announced last weekend that it was suspending fall sports through Friday, Sept. 11 because multiple students tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Administrators met Monday and decided to exempt their cross country, golf and volleyball teams from the two-week suspension.

The Hardin football season, however, will remain paused for another week. That’s because one of the team’s players tested positive for COVID-19 and several others have quarantined, according to Hardin athletic director Jon Wrzesinski.

The Big Horn County Public Health Department administered contact tracing and tested as many people as they could find who had been exposed to the infected students, Wrzesinski said. Other than the now-quarantined football players, no athletes were determined to be close contacts. That gave Hardin administrators and coaches comfort that the other sports could return to action this week.

“We’re not going to throw the baby out with the bath water,” Wrzesinski told 406mtsports.com Friday. “We realized we just can’t blanket everybody because it’s not fair to the kids who it’s not affecting.”

The Hardin football team’s season opener was scheduled for next Friday at home against Lewistown, but that will be canceled.

Hardin’s cross country teams weren’t allowed to travel to Sidney last Saturday because the two-week sports suspension had just gone into effect.

“It was pretty shocking and devastating. The kids were very bummed out,” Hardin cross country coach Cindy Farmer said Friday. “Thankfully, we got back sooner than expected.”

The Bulldogs ran against fellow Eastern A schools Billings Central, Laurel, Lockwood and Miles City at the Hardin Invitational on Friday. The Hardin boys won with a perfect score (they had the top-five runners), and Laurel took first on the girls side.

The Laurel girls also finished first at the Hardin Invite golf tournament, while Billings Central earned the boys title at Fort Custer Golf Course.

Bulldogs golf coach Amanda Lautt preached patience to her team last week when the two-week suspension was announced.

"Everything changes so fast. … I just told the kids, ‘Hold your breath. Don't panic,' " Lautt said Friday. "We’re really excited to get to play. I was really happy for my players."

Farmer felt fortunate and thankful after the meet ended. A week ago, she and her runners weren’t sure when — or if — they’d compete against other teams this season.

But Friday’s return does not mean they expect the rest of the season to proceed without any more suspensions or cancellations.

“It could happen again at any time,” Farmer said. “I think the kids realize that you have to take each day and be grateful for it and do your best.”

Email Victor Flores at victor.flores@406mtsports.com and follow him on Twitter at @VictorFlores_BG

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