Minnehaha Academy athletes return to first practice since explosion

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Nearly two weeks after a deadly explosion leveled Minnehaha Academy, the school's athletic teams returned to a much different campus to kick-off the fall sports season.

Because of the damage at the high school facilities, several teams are juggling practice space at the nearby lower campus.

The soccer team was on their home field for captain’s practice in the shadows of the school building when that massive explosion occurred.

Then, their assistant coach had to be pulled from the debris after suffering some life-altering injuries.

“Right now, the primary focus is getting back into this. We’ve got to take care of each other through things this year,” said Coach Steven Barone.

The coach said that the team has learned a lot of life lessons from the recent tragedy.

“The first one of those lessons I realized is life goes on around you, and I think they struggle with that a little bit. You have to wake up the next day and keep going."

“We’re all proud to be here,” said senior soccer player Erik Ostrem. “I mean, I wouldn’t want to go through this with any other people. I’m proud to go to this school. I love this place, and we’ll fight through it together.”

Ostrem and his fellow captains were leading a summer practice session on the Minnehaha Academy Upper Campus soccer field when they felt the force of the gas-fed blast.

“It took me a few hours to realize what happened and then a few days just to fully comprehend what had gone down," he said.

Their school was leveled, two beloved staff members were killed, and their assistant soccer coach Bryan Duffey was critically injured.

Duffey remains hospitalized after having a leg amputated, his players committed to honoring him this season.

“He’s definitely here in spirit…in our hearts, minds and prayers,” said junior soccer player Jack Schmitz. “We’re hoping to see him soon.”

Because of the explosion, students in grades 9-12 will move to a different building, and athletic teams have had to shift their practices and games to the lower campus.

Coach Barone told his team that Bryan Duffey is committed to being out here for the Redhawks’ first game of the season in a couple weeks.