Storm forces suspension of meet to today

Tuesday’s conditions at Mansion Park were ideal.

For swimming and diving.

What had been one of the hottest days of the year, which had District 6 Class AA Track and Field Championships competitors remarking how difficult it was to compete because of the low-80-degree temperatures, quickly turned into a meet in which it was impossible to compete because of lightning, high winds and hard rains just before 7 p.m., forcing the event to be suspended.

“In 32 years, I’ve never seen it look like this,” said meet official and Altoona Area High School girls coach Steve Rhodes in a meeting with the coaches to announce the decision.

The rains were so heavy that the jumping area was flooded, bulges began to form under the artificial turf infield and water leaked into certain areas of the pressbox. Teams had to hold onto their tents to keep them from blowing away.

Officials decided to suspend the meet, after which there was a brief lull and then another flurry of lightning strikes near the stadium.

“The rain basically rendered this place unusable,” Rhodes said. “Mother Nature did us in.”

The meet will be picked up today at 4 p.m., weather permitting. However, scattered thunderstorms are being forecast for today with more thunderstorms for Thursday, when the District 6 Class AAA Championships are on tap at Mansion Park.

A decision on whether or not to go ahead with the meet today is to be made by 10 a.m.

Rhodes vowed the stadium would be ready whenever the meet is completed. Usually, officials try to run the meet in the best conditions possible because their times, heights and distances can advance them to the state meet even if they don’t finish in the top three in their event.

“This is a state qualifier,” Rhodes said. “We need to give these kids the opportunity to compete.”

– Philip Cmor