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Athletes try to remain positive, dry during wet sports season

April 29, 2011

In this photo from Tuesday, Punxsy baseball players (from left) Garrett Zimmerman, Devan Neal (7), Taylor Neal and Jordan Mesoraco stand near a rain-drenched third base moments after a heavy downpour at Rich Kuntz Memorial Field. (Dan Walk/The Punxsutawney Spirit)

PUNXSUTAWNEY — First-year PAHS girls’ track and field coach Barry Young has a message for his athletes stuck on the bus or under shelter when the skies open up, as they have often this spring.

“There’s nothing you can do about it, so try to keep a positive attitude,” he said Thursday, one of the few days rain didn’t fall.
When asked what the rain gauge in his backyard said Thursday night, Charles Hoeh, the borough’s emergency management supervisor, replied, “Swim.”

According to his reports, Monday saw 0.83 of an inch of rain, followed by 0.65 Tuesday; 0.34 Wednesday; and 0.35 Thursday. Last Sunday, the gauge measured only 0.03 of an inch.

When asked what his monthly records read, Hoeh, said, “It’s easier to look at how many days it didn’t rain.”

Since the beginning of April up to Thursday, Hoeh’s records said it rained 21 days during the whole month.

“We’re way above average,” he said. “I think I heard that we’re 15 inches above average for the year.”

Punxsy softball manager Alan Pifer said it’s almost as if the coasts have moved.

“It’s almost like you have the weather that Seattle and Vancouver get on a regular basis, and it has shifted over here,” he said.

Between the PAHS baseball and softball teams, there have been about a dozen cancellations/postponements this season.

“It’s frustrating,” Pifer said. “You practice and practice, and you want to take what you have learned in practice and put it on the field. The rain just puts a damper on everything.”

But in their own ways, athletes are dealing with the unusually wet spring.

“With track and field, that’s the nature of the sport,” Young said. “Some springs are good, and some are rainy like this year. When you live in this area, that’s what you have to put up with.”

Field events, such as pole vault and jumping events, are especially affected, because slippery surfaces simply make it too risky for athletes to practice. It can also extend to running events to a certain degree, Young said.

“It’s the same for all teams in the area,” he said. “In the local area, other district are going through the same situation as we are.”

If it’s anything that hurts athletes is their inability to get in quality practices due to inclement weather.

“It’s hard to get personal bests when you’re fighting the elements all the time,” he said. “Where the weather is better, they’re getting quality practices, and we are not getting quality practices.”

He said he wants his girls to keep up their spirits, even if they’re stuck on a bus being hit with raindrops.

“They’re holding up pretty well,” Young said. “I’ve been a track person all my life, and you have to deal with it. Stay as positive as you can. You might not get your best personal performance, but you do the best you can.”

On the tennis court, PAHS boys’ tennis coach Todd Heigley said his team has been pretty fortunate amid the rainy spring. A month into the 50-date, 12-match tennis season, he said the team has lost only seven days.

“Hollidaysburg had rain, but they have an indoor facility,” he said. The team made it through about two-thirds of its match in St. Marys before rain forced the players to shelter.

That’s not to say there haven’t been some days the team has barely squeezed in its matches.

“The Clearfield match, there was green all around us on the radar, and we just split it up,” Heigley said. “We were lucky to get it in.”

The boys’ tennis team has also been practicing in the gym, with “plenty of time to swing the racquets to get our shots working,” he said.
As far as outdoor practice, Heigley said, “As long as the court is dry, we’re fine.”

A new tool Heigley has initiated this year is having the team practice Sunday evenings, “because it’s seemed like the nicest day of the week.” Since March 25, the team has picked times that work with their personal schedules and practice the night before the new school week begins. Plus, matches tend to be Mondays, Heigley said, so that players are ready the night before.

“I figured they’re home and getting ready to get into swing for school for the next week,” he said.

The challenge now, should the rain continue, is rescheduling matches that must he postponed. After a certain point in time, rescheduled matches start pushing into district matches, and eventually state matches.

“The state tournament takes precedence over districts,” he said.
Baseball and softball have at least four games scheduled each week during the first three weeks of May to conclude the regular season.
“As long as we get them, I don’t really care (about the postponements earlier in the year),” Pifer said.

Outside the realm of high school sports, Dan Pisarchick, club pro at the Punxsutawney Country Club, said the course has been open since “whenever the snow melted,” and usage has been about average for this time of the year.

“A lot of guys have not come back from Florida until about now,” he said, “but we’re starting to see more people.”

Despite wet weather and pooling of water on certain parts of the course, Pisarchick said, “The greens have been great, and the fairways are pretty wet. The players are making due. They understand they don’t want to hurt their course. They want to make sure to take steps now to make it perfect for later.”

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