Archive for Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Spring sports fans cheer on through drastic weather changes

April 1, 2014

Spring sports fans are a very hardy group. They sit, huddled in blankets, to cheer for a son, daughter or grandchild on a day with the thermometer hovering in the lower 40s and facing a brisk wind. They are the real supporters of high school baseball, softball, girls’ soccer, tennis, golf or track and they are going a frigid extra mile to back young people.

The lucky high school spring sports fans are the ones who have a girl competing in swimming. The meets are held inside.

I know I have been there. I believe one of the coldest events I ever attended was a girls’ soccer game in Allen, Texas. Fortunately, I struck up a conversation with the folks in the press box and as an old-time sportswriter we got “professional courtesy” and were invited to come and sit in one of the vacant cubicles. I certainly enjoyed the second half of the game being sheltered from the cold wind.

There is an opposite problem as the season continues. You can have extremely warm days which makes being a spectator as unpleasant as cold weather.

When I was in the newspaper business and it was a cold afternoon I took the coward’s (or smart depending on your opinion) way out. I took some photos and hurried back to my warm car.

Right now as you might guess, my biggest spring sports interest is track. My seventh grade grandson Shane is participating at Southwest Middle School at Lawrence. His oldest brother Stan is an outstanding distance runner for Free State High School. I would imagine I’ll see a lot more track in the future since Stan has signed a letter-of-intent to run for Wichita State next year.

Track is really an interesting sport to watch. If you go to a big meet there is a lot going on, from watching the runners on the track to seeing the jumpers taking part in various events. I have to marvel at the young athletes’ skills since there was absolutely nothing I could do well in track.

I was never a dash man since my problem was running too long in the same place. I did try distance running as a freshman, and I began to feel woozy during the race. When I got through the coach commented on my beet red face. It wasn’t long before I discovered I had the measles. That was, as I remember, my last race.

In the old days, there was only one spring sport – boys’ track. Girls track didn’t come to most high schools until the late 1960s. Conditions were much more primitive since most tracks were cinder, not the quality composition of the modern era. Because I was a high school football player, I was expected to spend some time at the track and the coach found the perfect job for me. A couple of us would accompany the janitor to the furniture factory and use scoop shovels to load saw dust for the jump pits. Sand was also used, not the big soft air bags of today.

Today’s track athletes are so much better than those of the “good old days.” Certainly one of the reasons is better equipment. In the 1950s, pole vaulters were using bamboo poles and struggling to clear 10-feet. High jumpers were using the “scissors” method and very lucky to get over the bar at six feet. Athletes are much better trained now. Many high school boys and girls run year-around and now post better times than college runners did a half century ago.

Track requires a lot of hard work and dedication on the part of the athlete. And, on a cold or extremely hot day, it takes that same dedication to be a fan.


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