Big Sky to Summit

Jill Morton, Opinion Columnist

As a collegiate athlete, I spend a lot of time traveling. We are sometimes gone every other week for five days at a time and being on the road for so long puts a lot of strain on a student. The early morning wake-ups to catch flights, the long drives between conference games and the odd meal schedules become unbearable. 

Currently, the women’s basketball team is part of the Big Sky Conference and unfortunately, it’s very spread out. Other teams in our conference are as far away as California. This means long travel days to each and every game. UND is the furthest team from the rest of the conference. To put it into perspective, Colorado is the next closest school in the entire conference.  

Being part of the Big Sky has a lot of perks though. I have traveled around the Western half of the country more in the past three years than I have in the rest of my life combined. It’s an amazing opportunity to be able to travel to so many different states at no cost to me.  

Some of the places that we get to see are very beautiful, especially compared to the bareness of North Dakota. I’ve had the privilege of traveling to the scenic mountain ranges in Montana, Utah and Idaho. One day, I was riding the bus on the way to practice in Utah, and I literally could not take my eyes of off the snowy mountain peak. North Dakota has gorgeous winters, but it has never quite caught my eye the way that this did. It’s experiences like these that make me appreciate the traveling that being part of the Big Sky allows me. 

Next year, we will be switching to the Summit League. Unlike our current conference, the Summit is much closer to us.  All teams are generally in the Midwest, spanning from Colorado to Indiana, North Dakota to Oklahoma. This time, Colorado will be the furthest from UND, rather than the closest.  

As a student, this will be a convenient change. Travel times will be cut and we will be home in Grand Forks for longer periods of time. We won’t have to miss as much class time, which will help with allocating more time for studying. 

The closeness of these Summit League schools will allow for more fans to come. Personally, my mom is really excited to be able to drive to a lot more games. Unlike in the Big Sky, games this year are not within driving distance from where my parents live in the cities, but when we start traveling to South Dakota and Illinois, it’ll be much more possible for them to support me by attending the games.  

The only downside that I’ve found about switching conferences is that these Midwest states, such as Nebraska and South Dakota, will be just as uninteresting as North Dakota. We’ll miss out on the different mountainous regions and other natural scenic wonders from the Big Sky Conference states. When it comes down to it, however, I’m really excited to switch conferences because of the  convenience and ease of travel to these much closer schools.  

Jill Morton is a columnist for Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]