Over the summer students might have looked up from their pool, or maybe out the window from their couch, and seen gray skies. What might have looked like clouds were actually piles of smoke from the fires burning all around California. And while you took shelter inside, sports teams were strategizing on how to get in practices with such bad air quality.
Prime conditioning for sports like cross country and football occurred during June, July and August right when the flames from the Carr Fire and the Ranch Fire were at their height. The Mendocino fire blazes through over 360,000 acres of land, and 3,700 fire personnel work around the clock to end the raging fire. The Mendocino fire consists of two fires: the River Fire and the Ranch Fire. Over 150 homes were destroyed along with 120 other structures. The Carr Fire as burnt 230,000 acres destroying 1,079 homes. Since June, there has already been 19 Spare the Air days, when air quality became unhealthy for sensitive groups.
The air quality affected practice times and intensity, but with a new place in Division 2, the teams weren’t going to sacrifice the season for some smoke. Sammie Stroughter, the head football coach, had the football team working around the air quality issues. He explained that the football team didn’t cancel practice, but they made sure to have extra water breaks and cooling tents.
Coach Stroughter explained, “The most important thing was the safety of the kids, so we didn’t tail off to much but yes we still worked.”
Womens varsity golf practice began mid July. The sports team was unable to move practice inside so there were not many options for the team. For starters the team practiced in the mornings versus in the afternoons. Head coach, Steve Kronick, would check daily on whether or not the conditions to play were safe or not and in many instances they were not.
And the work the football players put in wasn’t just on the field. When it was especially smoky football players could be found in the gym or even in the pool. Some of the cross country runners were also in the gym, doing intervals on the treadmill once they found out practice was canceled.
Cross country coach Anton Escay looked at the air quality every day and if it was poor, practice would be canceled. Eventually it got so bad that practice was moved to the morning, without a coach.
He wasn’t phased about having athletes practice without supervision from a coach.
“I fully trusted my athletes so I didn’t even think twice about doing that, cause I know my varsity athletes are pretty dedicated and they would do the workout and they could lead the younger kids,” said Escay. The faith both Coach Escay and Coach Stroughter had in their athletes was impressive. Athletes put in the work, regardless of the location and conditions, which provides teams with a good chance at success this fall sports season, smoky or not.