Woster: Wintry mix during track season, no thanks

Track fans: Sometimes sitting in a wintry mix that freezes on their eyelashes and stings their cheeks as they shiver in a parka and the thickest blanket they could find in the trunk of the car.

Terry Woster
Terry Woster

High-school track season and wintry mix are two phrases that should never have to be used in the same conversation.

Yet, here we are. Spring is officially upon us, effective March 20. High school track and field athletes across the state are well into conditioning routines for the 2023 season. And weather forecasters are talking about the possibility of rain. Or snow. Or a wintry mix in the week’s outlook.

Rain? Well, sure, it’s spring. Snow? I know that isn’t necessary. Have we not had enough for one winter? Is there any need to stretch it into actual spring?

Wintry mix? I have never been quite sure what that means. It seems to be the meteorologist’s way of saying, “Yeah, I’m not quite sure what’s going to happen, but I don’t think you are going to like it one bit.’’

Wintry mix is what comes to my mind when I try to recite that “Cat in the Hat’’ book for the great-granddaughter. “Too wet to go out, too cold to play ball, so we sat in the house and did nothing at all.’’ That is the place in the story where the child generally loses interest. Doing nothing at all has never been her style, not since she grew old enough to crawl across the living-room carpet. She really, really does not like sitting still, “not one little bit,’’ as the book says.


Children’s books aside, I look forward to this track season. I hope for good weather on meet days. The kids deserve it. So do the fans. Track fans are as loyal as it gets. They will sit through 19 heats of the middle school 200-meter dash for the chance to see their child, grandchild or great-grandchild finish fifth in her heat. They will show up early and stay late for the chance to see their competitor foul three attempts in the long jump or gut out the third leg of a mile relay.

Track fans will do that in cold, wind, rain, snow, gloom of night and, yes, sometimes in a wintry mix that freezes on their eyelashes and stings their cheeks as they shiver in a parka and the thickest blanket they could find in the trunk of the car. They will buy a cardboard bowl of concession-stand nachos that grow soggy from the rain while they stand cheering their favorite medley team. Then they will sit down and scarf down a handful of those nachos because, well, it’s a track meet and there they are.

If it sounds like I am describing last year’s track season, I guess I am. We traveled to several meets last year. Nearly all of them involved wind, cold and precipitation. Given the weather conditions in a typical South Dakota spring, I marvel at how well so many of the kids perform. I mean, it’s one thing to be a warm-weather track athlete. It is something else entirely to approach or break records here on the plains. The physical conditioning and mental strength some of these kids exhibit is amazing.

Last spring, an adult granddaughter lived here in Chamberlain. I was excited to be able to take her along to some of the track meets. Sports aren’t her thing, exactly. For example, in the days when we traveled to Grand Forks to watch North Dakota hockey, she would read a book while the game was on and close the book to listen to the pep band during breaks.

She had a cousin competing for Chamberlain in track last spring, though. Even if she doesn’t care about sports, she cares a lot about her cousin. So she went to a few meets, taken in, perhaps, by my descriptions of light, balmy breezes, sun-splashed bleachers and shorts-clad spectators.

Instead, she experienced rain, some snow, gale-force winds and mid-winter temperatures. She moved to the Twin Cities last fall. She won’t be riding along to meets this spring. If you asked, though, I think she would tell you she is still trying to get warm from last year’s track season.

So, wintry mix? Not this spring, okay? Give the kids, and the fans, a fighting chance.

Opinion by Terry Woster
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