As an alum of Fergus Falls High School, it is exciting to see so many student-athletes have success this winter season. We have seen the girls’ hockey team, boys’ swimming and diving team, wrestling, girls’ bowling team and, now, the girls’ basketball team compete at a state tournament. These are exciting times for these athletes and coaches, but it also is an exciting time for student fans that make the trip down to the state tournaments.

Some of my fondest memories in high school were traveling with friends to section and state playoff games. The long car rides and overnights were some of the best times that my friends and I could have had.

One of the most memorable times (probably not the best) was my junior year as a group of friends and I decided to head down to the boys’ state hockey tournament. That morning, several of us played intramural basketball and were meeting up with additional friends later that morning to travel down in my dad’s Ford Bronco. We packed seven people into the truck and cruised down to the cities for a day of hockey. What came next was slightly unexpected.

About a third of the way down to the cities, my one friend started to feel sick in the car. He would go on to vomit pretty much on the passenger window in back (we did the best we could to clean it up and the smell went away shortly). We pulled over to a rest stop in hopes that he would “get it all out” and start to feel better. After 15 minutes, another friend left the car to go check on him. A few short minutes later, I was told to just go to the state tournament and the two would find a ride back to town (I was worried, but the one friend assured me they would make it back).

So, now with five people in the car and more room, we continued a trek to the tournament.

Little happened on the way down there and the game proved to a bust as the Otters fell in the opening round. It was nice to get out and watch a game in state tournament atmosphere, but we were not looking forward to the drive home.

On the way back, one of my friends said that he spoke with the guys from the rest stop and they were still there. It had been at least 4 hours since we left them at the rest stop, but apparently they could not find a ride back. We started booking it back to where we had left them and had to go to an off ramp, get back on the interstate, pick them up at the rest stop, get back off and get back on the interstate to head toward town. Not a pleasant experience but it was worth a story.

The next year, myself and three friends made our way to the boys’ state basketball tournament to watch the Otters take on Red Wing. With a little game planning, we were able to get ourselves a hotel room and stay the night for the game the following day. Surprisingly, we were very tame that evening as the drive down seemed longer and most of us were just too tired to stay up past midnight. This trip had a lot of inside stories that I don’t believe the statute of limitations has expired on yet (just kidding). The thing that stuck out to me the most about this trip was that it was a hodgepodge of friends that built a strong bond that lasted into college.

So, enjoy your time down at the state tournament. If you are a player, have fun competing at a very high level. If you are a fan, enjoy the game and make some memories along the way.

Zach Stich is the managing editor of The Daily Journal. His column appears each Thursday.

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