Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Athletes try to beat heat in Selkirk

Soaring temps could slow times at track meet

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SELKIRK -- Mother Nature appeared unable to make up her mind leading in to opening day at the 2012 Milk Provincial High School Track and Field Championships.

But in the end she chose blue skies.

Despite a forecast that predicted heavy rain showers, day one of the three-day showcase kicked off Thursday with temperatures reaching 28 C.

Everywhere you stood you were in earshot of adolescent moans resulting from the scorching hot sun.

"The heat is going to be an issue for us," said Scott Gurney, a phys-ed teacher at Lord Selkirk High School and convenor of this year's championships.

"I'm almost glad to see blue sky cause then they're (the athletes) going to put sunscreen on.

"Tomorrow you're going to see a bunch of roasty toasty kids out there, just glowing red."

With the event attracting over 1,500 athletes from 120 schools competing in 70 different events, Gurney is worried it may have an affect on individual performances.

"The kids out in the heat today are going to go home tonight and a lot of them are going to be dehydrated, sunburned," he said, "They're not going to feel well and they're just not going to race to their potential."

Preventative measures have been put in place to protect the athletes -- water stations have been set up near the public restrooms and a variety of sports drinks are available for purchase at the canteen.

"Selkirk water, nothing better," joked Gurney.

Then there were the schools taking matters in to their own hands. Athletes could be found in shaded areas throughout the complex including spots under the bleachers -- where parents and friends took in the races -- and most schools had tents surrounding the perimeter of the track.

Then there was Sisler High School.

Supported by poles and ropes, a large grey tarp provided shade for their entire team.

It's something John Iwanski -- longtime coach of the school club -- said is part of a long-time tradition.

"We've been using a tarp for close to 25 years," he said resting in his lawn chair underneath the massive tarp. "That's what the tarp is for (to stay cool). Part of when you go to a three-day meet is having to spend the energy to take care of the kids because they won't take care of themselves."

Iwanski makes sure his kids are staying out of the sun and drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

He even recited a study shared by co-coach and teacher Jill Swirsky, "Not hydrating, not keeping good care of yourself can cost you (on average) 10 per cent of your performance."

But even though its fair to say that most athletes saw the high temperatures a distracting part of the day, Levi Neufeld- a 6-foot-1 middle distance runner from Kelvin High School didn't see in the same light.

"I don't find the heat to be that much of an issue," said the Grade 12 student who collected four gold medals at last year's event, earning him a scholarship at Trinity Western University next year. "At the end of the day we are all running in the same heat, we're all competing in the same conditions."

Day 2 gets underway this morning at Lord Selkirk Regional Comprehensive High School beginning with the triple jump and the 200-metres at 9:15 and 9:30 a.m.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 8, 2012 C6

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