Spring sports are here, even if spring isn’t some places
By Grant Lucas
Skyla Newton knows the Gilchrist High track is somewhere down there beneath the snow. That knowledge helps keep her spirits up.
“Trust me,” the Gilchrist sophomore laughed during a phone interview Friday, “I’ve been sick of the snow since basketball.”
Fortunately for Newton, and for the other 10 Grizzlies who have turned out for track and field this season, one lane of the track has been cleared of snow, at least as much as it can be.
James Anding, coach and athletic director at Class 1A Gilchrist, said that as of Friday there had been only done day in the previous month when it did not snow in the tiny unincorporated town about 45 miles south of Bend.
Newton was listed as a 5-foot-1-inch guard on the Gilchrist girls basketball roster this past season. She recounted that the last time she was out on the track — or on the snow that covers the track — the banks of snow that surround the track reached her waist; the snow plowed from the high school’s parking lot towers some 10 feet high, according to Anding.
Since the first official day of spring practices on Feb. 27, Anding said, Gilchrist track athletes have felt comfortable enough to practice outdoors only three times.
“It wasn’t nice,” Anding said, noting that his team was outside to run timed intervals wearing shorts or sweats.
“But the kids were so antsy to get out. It was so cold out there, standing there timing their intervals. We made it maybe 15 minutes and then we went back inside. … Our kids are tough.”
This is the state of the “spring” sports season for schools such as Gilchrist, when teams spend more time indoors than out. The Grizzlies have dragged hurdles into the school for training in the halls. The high jump equipment has resided on the stage in the cozy gym. The sprinters have raced down the school’s longest hallway, which in Anding’s estimation stretches 80 meters. Long jumpers and triple jumpers have leapt into the high jump pit indoors.
“It’s hot and stuffy,” Anding said.
This past Thursday, Anding pointed out, was the first day of snow melt, the first day it had not snowed in Gilchrist in a month. (It rained instead.) At state last season, Newton placed in both the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, and already she is facing obstacles that certainly few of her competitors have faced already this season.
“This year is going to be tough,” Newton said matter-of-factly. “We just have to make the best out of it and do our best.”
That is the approach athletes and coaches at nearby La Pine High have had to adopt.
As of Friday, the fields were unplayable for the Hawks, La Pine athletic director Aaron Flack confirmed, even with significant melting last week. The baseball teams and softball teams are sharing the gym. The track and field throwers use the auxiliary gym after school and the runners are using the only cleared portion of the track. Every La Pine home game and meet scheduled for March has already been relocated.
“(That) makes our preseason difficult because we are always on the road,” Flack said. “We are sending out baseball, softball and track to Bend to use their fields for outdoor work once a week. Our golf teams have had to go to courses in Bend as well because Quail Run (the Hawks’ home course located just north of La Pine) is not available yet.”
All of which makes Madras athletic director Evan Brown grateful.
Up in Madras, like in Bend, the snow began melting several weeks ago. The White Buffaloes’ baseball, softball, track and field, and tennis teams were outdoors on the first official day of spring practices. And Brown said there was no concern for a delay.
“About the week before, it really cleared off here,” Brown said. “We still had piles (of snow) where they had scooped … but the fields were pretty clear by then.”
Those mounds of plowed snow remind Brown of the headaches he and Madras High spring sports have dodged.
“To have our stuff melt off when it did was definitely beneficial for us,” said Brown, whose baseball and softball teams were originally scheduled to play at La Pine next Monday, games that have been relocated to Madras. “You compare us to some of these other schools — like La Pine, for example — where they’ve still got a couple feet (of snow), we’ve got a little bit of a head start on them. Those poor guys are just looking for a place to move in to practice where they can get on a field.”
That brings us back to Gilchrist, where the Grizzlies are welcoming any day clear enough to practice outside, to break up the monotony, to bring hope to athletes praying for the snow to melt away.
“We want to get out on the track, we want to throw the javelin on the field, we want to long jump, we want to pole vault,” Gilchrist’s Newton said. “All of us are just kind of done with the snow. We want to get out there and work on our events and just improve as much as we can before the season’s done.
“I love just seeing the track. Running on it is just going to be a blessing if we ever get to that.”