Spring sports getting pummeled

Igloo meet canceled

By Buck Frank


The name of the meet alone, the Altoona Igloo Track and Field Invitational, suggests the competition will be held in less-than-ideal conditions.

But even the Igloo fell victim to the wintry weather that’s put a deep freeze on the 2018 scholastic spring sports season.

For just the second time in 43 years, the Altoona Igloo Meet was canceled on Saturday morning due to an overnight snowfall that made the Mansion Park track more like a speedskating surface than one you typically see athletes running on in shorts and sneakers.

“We got there at 6:30 in the morning, and the track was a sheet of ice,” Altoona boys track coach and assistant meet director Mike Adams said. “The turf field was covered in ice. We had coaches slipping and falling, and we couldn’t move the hurdles because they were iced to the track. We had to put the safety of the athletes first.”

By noon, the snow and ice had melted, but with a 9 a.m. start and teams coming from places like Elk County, Kane and Johnsonburg, the organizers were forced to make a decision on whether to hold the meet by 7 a.m.

“It turned out to be a decent day, but the first three hours of the meet would have been brutal,” Adams said. “It’s unfortunate. We made a decision, and we have to live with it. It wasn’t the cold, it was the ice. No way would I have wanted to see any of the athletes get injured.”

The Igloo meet is just one of many scholastic sporting events that have either been postponed or canceled this year due to, not just the cold weather and snow, but also rain on days when the temperature was more spring-like.

Several teams haven’t been able to get a single game or meet held so far. In fact, some coaches who reported results to the Mirror this past week didn’t care as much if their team lost the game but were just happy the team was able to play a game.

“Since I’ve been the (Altoona athletic director), this is the worst I’ve seen it,” Altoona AD Phil Riccio said. “We upgraded our infield on the Mansion Park baseball field and we have two totally brand new softball fields at Logan (Elementary School), and each team has been on them maybe once. We haven’t had a baseball game (at Mansion) yet, and we finally got a softball game in (on Friday).”

The spring sports season is a already a short one, but a concern for coaches at this stage would be having enough time to get their teams ready for the baseball and softball playoffs next month. Riccio said another problem, especially for baseball teams, is the new pitch count, which could really negatively affect teams if they have to end up playing a bunch of games in a row due to all of the rescheduled games.

Also, track coaches might have a difficult time getting athletes to reach their peak at districts, which are just five weeks from now.

“It’s definitely a concern with training to help get athletes to the level they have to be at (for districts and states),” Adams said. “Fortunately, though, everyone is in the same boat. Everyone has gotten bad weather all across Pennsylvania. It’s not just our area.”

The irony of the Igloo meet getting canceled is that it was scheduled a week later this season because of Easter weekend falling on March 30-April 1. The weather conditions were good over the Easter weekend, but very few scholastic events were scheduled because of the holiday.

More rain is in the forecast for Monday with the temperatures staying in the 40s, at least early next week.

“I tell our kids, you can only control what you can control, and you can’t control the weather,” Adams said. “It’s been like we’ve been practicing in February weather. But, the end of next week looks promising. Hopefully, the worst is behind us at this stage.”