Weather hampering Hickman, Rock Bridge track teams

Friday, May 3, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — At a Hickman track and field practice last week, coach Steve Kissane stood in a camouflaged winter coat as a cold rain poured on him and his team.

The Kewpies had planned to host a meet earlier in the day. Mother nature had other ideas.

This spring’s wet and cold weather isn't making things easy for the Rock Bridge and Hickman track teams. It often makes holding field events, like the pole vault and high jump, impossible, though runners can usually compete.

Athletes usually want to improve their marks each practice, but the weather is making that hard to accomplish.

“There’s times at meets when we tell them we don’t care what your times are or what your heights or distances are,” Rock Bridge coach Neal Blackburn said. “What we really care about is how you compete against your fellow athletes.”

Hickman assistant coach Cedric Alvis said that streaks of bad weather affect athletes' confidence.

“You just miss chances to improve,” Alvis said. “Now the kids feel pressure that they have to do something. (They are) mad because they haven’t ran something. In reality, they just haven’t had as many chances to compete and to try.”

Last week, the Kewpies had two meets canceled. This week, a meet set for Friday in Jefferson City was moved up to Wednesday because rain is expected over the weekend.

Alvis also said that athletes’ mentalities differ in good and bad weather. He said in sunny weather, athletes tend to feel better. In cold weather, athletes find excuses to do poorly.

“Once you put that seed in your mind," he said, "it’s really hard for a 16-, 17-year-old kid to overcome that.”

Rock Bridge’s track team left Missouri to compete at the Eastern Relays last weekend in Louisville, Ky. But they still couldn’t escape the weather. Temperatures hovered in the mid-40s, there was a light mist and strong wind gusts made the sprint events tough to compete in at times.

Blackburn said the conditions affected his team’s performance, but the Bruins managed to set “a lot” of personal records.

At Rock Bridge’s track and field practice Wednesday afternoon, assistant coaches Patrick Sasser and Anthony Alphin stood on both sides of the runway and pushed their pole vaulters to take as many attempts as they could. The rain forecast for Thursday and Friday will make it impossible to vault safely the rest of the week.

And the Bruins vaulters might not get a chance to compete at Saturday's Rock Bridge Invitational either. According to the National Weather Service, there is a 60 percent chance of rain.

Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.

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