FINAL POINT - When the weather outside is frightful …
     2013-04-18      By Terry Gaston   
No other season for schools’ activities offers more vulnerability to the weather than the spring. After all, all springtime sporting events are conducted outside: soccer, boys’ golf, girls’ tennis and track and field.

In the past week and a half, several local and area athletic events have been either postponed or outright canceled because of Mother Nature.

This year, however, has been different. Postponed and canceled events have fallen victim to first early-spring rain and now to mid-spring snow.

From last Tuesday through Tuesday of this week, Gering Activities Director Glen Koski has posted no fewer than six e-mails to media regarding the postponement and rescheduling, or just flat-out cancellation, of numerous athletic events.

“When you have things back-to-back two weeks in a row, sometimes you get a day or two when you can maybe reschedule some things,” Koski said. “But when you look at stuff again this week, you just don’t know. Obviously we’ve rescheduled a few things already.”

Both of Gering’s soccer teams and the Scottsbluff boys faced scheduling changes last week during and in the aftermath of Winter Storm Walda. The Gering girls’ April 9 date at Sterling, Colo., was postponed to Thursday – weather permitting, again, of course.

Then both Gering and Scottsbluff’s boys’ soccer teams were scheduled to play Grand Island Central Catholic and Lutheran High Northeast/Norfolk Catholic on Saturday at the Dr. Allan C. Landers Memorial Soccer Complex on the northeast edge of Scottsbluff.

But when Walda reared its ugly spring head beginning last Monday with snow in western Nebraska and eventually harsh thunderstorms turned snow and sleet in the eastern part of the state, Gering and Scottsbluff schools were closed for two days and the soccer opponents back east pondered their own weather issues.

Dave Pauli, Scottsbluff’s activities director and former coach and AD at Gering, was the Saturday soccer event’s director and said Lutheran Northeast/Norfolk Catholic canceled out of the event because of its extreme weather later in the week.

Then the City of Scottsbluff, as early as last Wednesday, informed Pauli that its crews could not have the fields in playing condition by Saturday.

“I talked to them about trying to pack the snow down to see if it could melt faster, and they said it wasn’t going to happen,” Pauli said. “I think with the rain that we got in front of that snow, that added to the soft soil and everything was wet underneath.”

So Pauli was forced to scramble in order to save the event, or at least partially. The first task was to find an alternate place to play.

North Platte’s complex has served as a great neutral-site location, including two doubleheaders this season for both Scottsbluff and Gering teams when they faced teams from farther east.

“That has been the hardest thing I’ve had to reschedule,” Pauli said of the double dual turned doubleheader for Grand Island Central Catholic and single games for Scottsbluff and Gering.
“It would have been easy to cancel, but I knew that both Gering and Scottsbluff were in jeopardy of losing games. We at least got one game in, but we would have rather had two.”

Then Pauli had to secure officials for the games, and in Saturday’s case the school provided transportation for the officials to and from North Platte.

“We hauled them down there in a school vehicle,” he said. “They didn’t get paid much for the day, since that was six hours of drive time they don’t get paid for.”

Gering defeated Grand Island Central Catholic 4-0, and then GICC had to turn right around and play Scottbluff, a match the Bearcats won 9-0.

“I felt bad for GICC because they faced a rested team in the second game, which was a little unfair,” Pauli said. “But for the three teams there, it wasn’t their fault that there wasn’t a fourth team.”
Koski said another factor in rescheduling the displaced event was considering that Gering had several boys who were in the school musical “Tintyme,” which completed its three-night run Saturday night. Scottsbluff’s musical, “Bye Bye Birdie,” also was last week.

“You have to do what you have to do in order to get games in,” Koski said. “The disappointing factor was not getting two games and having to go down and just playing one. But it’s not just the athletic part, it involves how the other activities fit in with them. So traveling down to North Platte created some other issues.”

So both teams came away with wins, and Pauli said getting each local team at least one match made all his hard work worth the effort.

“It just took a lot of time,” Pauli said. “You’re calling officials to take there, you’re calling fields to play on, and you’re calling other schools when one cancels on you. At times you don’t feel like you’re making any headway.”

Thankfully by Monday, when the Gering and Scottsbluff teams were scheduled to play simultaneous junior varsity doubleheaders followed by the varsity games, the fields at the Landers Complex were in as good of shape as they might have been this spring.

“It’s really about perfect today as far as the ground goes,” Pauli said at halftime of the varsity games, which were rescheduled to be played first to avoid the impending threat of Winter Storm Yogi that included a winter storm advisory starting at 6 p.m. Monday.
Pauli said the time switch – for the varsity matches, from 5 p.m. to 3 p.m., and vice versa for the JV games – required some logistical work, especially in getting the officials -- who must be registered by the Nebraska School Activities Association for varsity games – to either come early or get other registered officials who could.

Then substitute teachers had to be secured for the coaches who thus had to leave school early.
By shortly after noon Monday, the AD’s were able to notify media,
and students could let their parents know of the time changes.

“Dave was the one who actually brought it up,” Koski said of playing the varsity matches first. “It sounded like a great idea to me. At least we hopefully could get those games in, and if weather moves in later on and we can’t play JV, then we can’t.”

Thankfully, by night’s end, the only weather effect cast on the game were a few intermittent, light snow flurries and the extra cloudiness that darkened the skies as the daylight fell into twilight.

By 7 p.m., the JV games were finished, the sun peeked strikingly through the clouds before setting. Mission accomplished.
And then later Monday night, the skies opened with the first sustained snowfall of the predicted multiple-day storm.

Since the weather is so unpredictable this time of year, Koski said the key is whether a visiting opponent is willing to travel in predicted inclement weather.

“If it’s going to put them in position of being in danger, we certainly don’t want that,” Koski said. “And that’s we look at when we’re traveling somewhere, if it’s going to be danger is going to be involved. If it’s going to be dangerous for us to be traveling, then we’re not going to play.”

Monday’s six-mile trek between Gering High School and the Landers Complex made the overall decision to play easier.
“When teams are traveling, you have to take that into consideration,” Pauli said. “Like today, it was Gering and Scottsbluff, so about 12 or 1, we could make a decision. But I did talk to the Cheyenne Central AD and he said they had 3 to 4 inches of snow, so I didn’t know if we would more by now, so that’s when we talked about switching so we could at least get the varsity in.”

Rescheduling, Koski said, is a challenge every year during the spring seasons because of the limited time and logistics needed to reschedule events.

“It’s not easy when you have continuous things that you have to try to reschedule,” he said. “You run out of time eventually.”
The most vulnerable events, because of all the volunteer help and participating schools’ schedules, are track meets. Scottsbluff’s Binfield Invitational on Saturday, March 23, fell victim to an early spring rain system that included blustery conditions.

“We were hoping the weather might turn, at least in the wetness of the fields, but by Friday morning it just wasn’t getting any better,” Pauli said. “You keep an eye on the weather, but it’s hard.”

On Monday, Pauli already had his eyes on the forecast the rest of the week, with the Western Nebraska Twilight track meet scheduled for Friday.

“For this week, it’s going to be hard for us with the Twilight,” Pauli said of Friday’s scheduled meet at Bearcat Stadium. “I don’t think the running events will be tough, but I’m afraid especially for the shot and discus. Those are some of the things that hold up a track meet.

“When I was in Gering in 1995 or ’96, the first three Mondays in April they had considerable snow, and it really put the track team behind because it messed up your whole week in practice. We’ll see what happens the next few days, but it definitely has a lot of challenges.”

In spite of this year’s wacky spring snow rescheduling or cancellations, Pauli said the two strangest cancellations in which he has been involved occurred last fall.

The first was when Interstate 80 had to be closed because of high winds, forcing North Platte to cancel its volleyball match at Scottsbluff.

“I’ve never canceled an event for wind,” Pauli said. “Their bus is high profile and they didn’t let their kids come, which I can fully understand.”
A week before, smoke from the Wyoming wildfires ventured into the area and forced a health safety conditions for events that included a tennis tournament and a middle school football game.

“We canceled stuff from that smoke about noon, when it was really smoky around here,” Pauli said. Nobody could give us any health regulations, so we decided to cancel. And then by game time, the smoke drifted off and it was pretty nice. But we decided to err on the side of caution.”

Therein lays the bottom line: No event is worth risking the health and safety of the students and coaches.

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