It has been several years since I last covered a track and field meet, but this spring’s weather pattern certainly brings back a lot of memories.
For sure, there were football games, cross country meets and some auto races that featured unique conditions, but nothing brought variety quite like the spring elements associated with track and field.
There were times when I felt like I was in a desert, times when I felt like I was inside a washing machine, and times when I felt like I had worked for a week during the course of a single day.
Of course, it was always a joy to cover some of the state’s finest athletes, but some days were a bit more memorable than others thanks to a variety of weather-related events.
I recall covering a region track meet at Swisher Field that was better suited for ducks than humans. It rained so hard that any spectators that showed up decided to remain in their vehicles ran than get soaked in the stands. The only people who were outside were the competitors and officials. Athletes would literally get off the bus, run their race and then run right back to the bus. It was the only time during my nearly 40-year media career that I went home to change clothes before I went back to the office, because I was literally dripping wet.
Weather also provided for a memorable region meet in Watertown one year. The meet was about halfway complete when a tornado siren forced a temporary halt to the events. We all went inside the school and waited out the storm. When we returned to the complex, we discovered that the shot put area had been turned into a lake. The person marking the distances literally rolled up her pants and measured “splash marks” after participants made their throws.
Naturally, there were many other days when I spent hours out in the direct sunlight and returned home with a sunburn for the ages. It really wouldn’t have mattered had I blushed out of embarrassment at my appearance, because I was so red already that you wouldn’t have noticed a difference.
One of the reasons that I write about the unpredictable track and field conditions is because this weekend’s forecast calls for a continuation of more unseasonal “spring” conditions. We are five days away from May flowers and there is a chance we may get more April snow showers.
Looking back on it, I now find it only fitting that the final state track and field meet I covered ended prematurely because of inclement weather. I was under the grandstand doing interviews when it was announced that people had to clear the stadium because of an approaching storm. Imagine my surprise when I returned to the track to find everybody scattering like they were in the finals of the 100-meter dash.
Yes, South Dakota is the land of infinite variety. And while that can provide for a lot of inconvenience, it can also produce a lifetime of memories.