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Big Sky State Games Cancels, Postpones Spring Events

A pair of figure skates.
Dustin Gaffke
Flickr (CC BY 2.0)
A pair of figure skates.

Sporting events have been hard hit during the novel coronavirus pandemic and the Big Sky State Games are no exception. The Olympics-style sports festival scheduled for mid-July in Billings is still on track, but some athletes lost their last chance to compete in the postponed and canceled spring events.

Figure skating has been Jessica Swandal’s one passion. For some 13 years the Billings skater has made the long drive every Sunday to Cody, Wyo. to train.

"Every Sunday my coaches would drive from Bozeman, we meet up in Laurel. They’d pick me and my friends up from one of the local gas stations and we’d be on our way for a five hour skating day and then we’d head back that same night," Swandal said. 

As a high school senior, the Cody Spring Classic, a Big Sky State Games figure skating event, was to be her swan song. Now that it’s been moved to October, Swandal says it’s very likely she will not compete.

She had planned to dedicate her performance to her coaches and to her mom and dad who have given up much for her to be able to skate. 

"I mostly wanted to do it not only for me but for my family and my coaches, and especially for my mom and dad because they had given up so much for me to be able to skate. And I wanted to show them how thankful I was for it and not to be able to do it is hard," Swandal said. 

Ice hockey and stage and ballroom dance have also been moved to either late summer or fall.

Curling, which was scheduled for later in April, has been cancelled, as has indoor soccer, which was on the calendar for late March.

Big Sky State Games, predominantly a summer sports festival with nearly 50 events for athletes of all ages and abilities, is planned for July 17 to 19.

Amy Whalen co-chairs the Games’ spring skating event, the Cody Spring Classic. She says she had no choice but to postpone over concerns for the health and safety of the athletes, their families and the people in Cody. They were bringing in four elderly judges from out of state, including one from Seattle, one of the early hotbeds of the coronavirus, and competitors from Wyoming, Montana and Colorado.

"And so we were just worried about their health and bringing them into our community," Whalen said. 

This was not the way Jessica Swandal thought her high school skating career would end but she said she understood.

"It’s definitely for the best and for the safety of all. I would never want it any other way because I’ve had such a huge support group and I would not given them up for anything," Swandal said. 

Big Sky State Games is still scheduled for mid-July. It will be the 35th annual games.

Kay Erickson has been working in broadcasting in Billings for more than 20 years. She spent well over a decade as news assignment editor at KTVQ-TV before joining the staff at YPR. She is a graduate of Northern Illinois University, with a degree in broadcast journalism. Shortly after graduation she worked in Great Falls where she was one of the first female sports anchor and reporter in Montana.