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Keeping up with fall sports

The calendar shows two weeks of summer remaining, but many people mark today, Labor Day, as the final day of summer. It's the last gasp of sun and fun before our busy fall schedules carry us away.

The calendar shows two weeks of summer remaining, but many people mark today, Labor Day, as the final day of summer. It's the last gasp of sun and fun before our busy fall schedules carry us away.

To prep and college sports fans, however, summer ended several weeks ago, when high school and college athletes returned to their practice fields and put on football helmets, soccer jerseys, volleyball uniforms, swimsuits and running shoes. Athletes, parents, coaches, fans and sports writers ignore the equinoxes and solstices and instead observe the passing seasons in relation to the sports calendar.

So winter doesn't begin on Dec. 21, it starts when local ice rinks are flooded and the gym rats re-emerge and begin shooting endless free throws and jumpers. Spring waits until the cracks of bats and starting pistols can be heard outside. Summer? It crosses the starting line along with a throng of runners completing the marathon trek from Two Harbors to Canal Park.

We hold autumnal equinox celebrations at countless football stadiums, soccer fields, volleyball courts and cross country courses, never mind where our planet is located during its yearly lap around the sun.

And when sports seasons overlap, we focus on the season of our favorite sport, be it winter's hockey, summer's baseball, spring's track and field or fall's football.

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But like any other season that we cherish and wish could last just a little longer, sports seasons burn through countless practices and games with frightful speed. The names, faces and exploits of our athletes change quickly, too, as understudies continually step in to replace graduated student-athletes in a perpetual march of youth.

Of course, time can't be stopped, but it's still possible to freeze some of these moments in time. At the DNT, we do our best to capture those prep and college sports moments with pictures, stories, summaries and box scores.

It's certainly not an easy job, as the nightly sports reports seem to besiege us while pouring through the e-mails, phones and fax machines. When there are 40-plus high schools and a handful of colleges to follow, the events pile up quickly and require a frenzy of work to compile while our deadline quickly and steadily closes in.

And, truthfully, it's an outdated process in the age of Twitter and iPods.

But this past week, the DNT sports department took a major step in consolidating this process by creating a more efficient platform for taking sports scores and summaries from area coaches. Dan Moller, one of the computer gurus in the News Tribune's IT department, helped format a Web site to allow coaches to input the information from their games and submit it to us in a format ready to publish in the paper and on the Web. The result is a quicker, more accurate and efficient procedure.

This process will save time on both ends of the equation. No more long phone conversations with reporters asking coaches to "please spell that name one more time." No more toner-challenged faxes or incomplete e-mails. And no more trying to comprehend a coach's handwriting better suited for filling out prescriptions.

We're excited about this new system for taking box scores, and we've heard positive reports from several of the coaches who have been using it. As more coaches and statisticians migrate to the Web site, our reporters will be freed up to spend more evenings covering local sports, not being tied to the telephone or fax machine for several hours.

That's the best way to spend any sports season ... on location.

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Contact News Tribune sports editor RICK LUBBERS at rlub

bers@duluthnews.com or (218) 723-5317.

Rick Lubbers has been in his role since 2014 and at the News Tribune since 2005. Previous stops include the Superior Telegram (1999-2005) and Budgeteer News (1997-1999). Prior to that, he worked at the St. Cloud Times and Annandale Advocate in Minnesota, and the Greenville Daily News and Grand Rapids Press in Michigan. He received his journalism degree at Central Michigan University.
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