Weather delays state track meet until Saturday
Carol Sams, after a day spent coordinating with high school state track and field officials, took some time to look out the window of her hotel room in Denver on Thursday.
“It’s miserable out there,” the Grand Junction athletic director said about 3 p.m. She will also be a worker at this year’s state track and field meet in Lakewood. “This is the first time all day it hasn’t been snowing.”
That wet spring snowstorm prompted the Colorado High School Activities Association to postpone the three-day state meet, pushing it back to a two-day meet scheduled to run Saturday and Sunday.
Forecasts from the National Weather Service in Denver called for 2 to 4 inches of snow accumulation Thursday night, but partly cloudy skies were supposed to prevail from tonight through Sunday night. Ryan Casey, director of digital media for CHSAA, said it’s the first time the state track meet has ever been rescheduled in such a way.
“As far as I understand it, it’s never happened before,” he said.
The delay left all District 51 and western Colorado teams scrambling for things to do and keep their student-athletes busy for the next few days. First-year Grand Junction coach Dustin Giesenhagen teamed up with Palisade’s Tim Reetz to take their teams to the Denver Zoo on Thursday. Paonia coach Brian Mitchem was hoping to find a recreation center Thursday to get some practice time in before going out to a movie as a team.
“We’re just doing what we can to keep them busy,” Mitchem said.
Inclement weather did wipe out part of the first day of the 2011 state meet, Mitchem said, but the meet itself still finished on time.
All running events, which run from 8:15 a.m. to 7:10 p.m. on Saturday and also all day Sunday, will be timed finals without preliminaries. Throwing events will also go without prelims but allow each participant in the shot put and discus four attempts.
It’s a schedule change designed to allow all state qualifiers to compete in the meet, but it also lengthens the overall day and condenses the time of each individual event. New heat sheets will be released by CHSAA by the mid-afternoon today. State qualifiers unable to participate because of the new schedule are asked to let CHSAA officials know by noon today.
Many aren’t thinking twice. Mitchem said his Paonia girls team, which is trying to win its fifth consecutive team championship, will stay for the meet even though the school’s graduation ceremony is slated for Sunday. The same holds true for Cedaredge, which is trying to win its second consecutive boys team championship but has its school’s graduation ceremony scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday.
For Paonia, it didn’t take much thought.
“We have four girls and three guys who are graduating,” Mitchem said. “We talked to all of them, and every one of them said, ‘We’re staying.’ “
Casey said on his Twitter account that meet officials will recognize graduating seniors during an in-meet ceremony at 11:50 a.m. on Sunday.
“It’s definitely not ideal as a coach or as a team, but our kids want to compete,” said Cedaredge coach Kirby Henderson, who has five senior boys on his team. “I think these guys realized they can get their diploma at any time, but these kind of chances don’t come around very often in track and field.”
Delta senior Lily Lockhart is the school’s valedictorian and she doesn’t plan to miss Sunday’s graduation ceremony. She won the 4A shot put last year and was second in the discus. This season, she is ranked No. 2 in both in 3A. She told The Daily Sentinel that her plan is to compete in the shot put Saturday, then pass on the discus competition Sunday so she can head home and graduate with her class.
The elements and scheduling could play a significant factor in overall performances. With all running events being timed finals, Giesenhagen said some athletes might not perform as well if they’re not placed in the same heat as faster competitors. On the flip side, he said the challenge of competing in the elements could open the door for low-end state qualifiers to earn a podium finish.
“We have a saying here with this team that we don’t get cold and we don’t get tired,” the Grand Junction coach said. “It’s just one of those situations where you have to roll with this, and I haven’t seen one of our kids complaining about what we’re having to deal with. That’s a great thing to see.”