Hazy air makes practicing a challenge



POLK COUNTY — With thick layers of haze pressing down on the Willamette Valley last week, high school sports practices were either canceled or relocated inside gyms and cafeterias due to unhealthy air quality caused by the surrounding Oregon and California fires.

It was a hectic week at the high schools as athletic directors and coaches worked together to try and make sure each sports team received a time and place for their practice that day.

“All of our sports teams have had to relocate, change practice times and or duration due to the air being so bad,” said Dallas High School Athletic Director Tim Larson.

Wednesday morning, DHS girls soccer had to practice in the cafeteria, and DHS boys soccer was moved to the wrestling room Thursday morning.

At Central High School, the cross-country team ran laps in the Panther Pit all last week, which can be monotonous, said head coach Eli Cirino.

Cirino said he implemented circuit training and weight lifting to try and make up for the lack of mileage.

The Air Quality Index is a tool that measures the quality of the air for that day, and is the tool the school districts in the county were using to determine whether or not practices could be held outside. A good AQI measurement is from 0-50; moderate is 51-100; 101-150 is unhealthy for sensitive groups, including elderly, babies and young children, and those with asthma or illness; unhealthy is 151-200; very unhealthy is 201-300; and hazardous is 301-500.

According to the Oregon Schools Activities Association, the school districts’ standard for allowing outside practice is at or below 100, according to OSAA.ORG

Last week, the AQI was consistently at or above 115, according to airnow.gov.

“We just take it day-by-day, by-day-by-day,” Larson said.

Some sports, such as volleyball, weren’t affected — they practice inside anyway. But for football, cross-country and soccer, practicing inside a gym can be limiting.

“It really hasn’t been frustrating to find time and space as all of our coaches; athletes and families are flexible. The frustration comes when we are limited on what can get done inside vs. outside,” Larson said.

“It’s killed us a little bit,” Perrydale head football coach Steve Mabry said, echoing Larson. “It makes it hard to get game-day ready. You can only do so much in a gym.”

Three out of their last four football practices last week were relocated into the gym.

Regardless of the less-than-ideal practice conditions, Mabry said his kids are adjusting to the changes well.

“They’re doing a good job. You know, we all deal with it.”

At Falls City High School last Tuesday afternoon, head football coach Laric Cook was constantly checking his phone for updates on the AQI. When practice started at 5 p.m. the AQI had just reached 100. If it had been 101, the team would have had to use the weight room for the day.

The coaches are staying positive and doing what they can to make the most out of the situation.

“We only worry about what we can control,” Dallas head football coach Andy Jackson said. “Let’s make the most of this.”

As of 8 a.m. on Monday morning, the AQI was at 12. Practices are scheduled as regular.



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