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Winter leaves prep sports in ‘wonder’ land

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High school athletics directors in Indiana brace themselves annually for unpredictable weather conditions and the increased workload they can cause.

And yet most Johnson County ADs agree this winter has managed to set itself apart.

“I have not seen anything like this,” Edinburgh athletics director David Walden said of the bitter cold temperatures and snowfalls that have forced numerous postponements and some cancellations of sporting events throughout the county in recent weeks.

“I feel sorriest for the athletes because they get a schedule before the season starts, and they expect to be playing those games. I will be extremely happy to see (January) go.”

Walden noted that through Tuesday a total of 41 sporting events had been affected this winter at Edinburgh from the fifth-grade level on up through girls and boys varsity competitions.

Naturally, numbers vary elsewhere. What’s constant is the frustration, though athletics directors have been known to work at an even more frantic pace most spring sports seasons.

“This is just a sampling of what ADs, coaches and teams experience virtually every spring in Indiana. And to be honest, we have

40 percent more weekly events at that time of year to postpone, reschedule or cancel when rain moves in,” Center Grove athletics director Jon Zwitt said.

“So far this winter season

we have moved or canceled approximately eight events, which may seem high, but it is slightly below the number for an average spring season.”

For athletes like Whiteland boys basketball player John Hubler, the uncertainty of whether games will be played or practices conducted in time begins to take a toll.

“To be honest, it is kind of rough because you’re used to going to school and getting in a rhythm,” said Hubler, the Warriors’ 6-foot-5 senior forward and leading scorer. “On snow days, I find myself just waiting around, and I would say the practices aren’t as sharp as they normally are.”

First-year Franklin Community athletics director John Regas doesn’t view Mother Nature’s volatility as a negative.

“I don’t look at it that way because it’s all I know. This is part of the job,” Regas said. “Just Tuesday we postponed five events, and I would guess we’ve either postponed or canceled a dozen events so far. You don’t really say ‘canceled’ until it’s the end of that season. It depends on how much season is left to determine whether something can be made up or not.”

Like Walden, Zwitt and Whiteland athletics director Ken Sears, Grizzly Cubs boys basketball coach Jerry Bomholt remembers well the blizzard of 1978 and the headaches it caused.

Bomholt said this winter season is its own entity.

“At least that year you knew you weren’t going to do anything,” Bomholt said. “Now it’s a day here and a day there or two days here and two days there. It’s so disruptive. As a basketball coach the thing that’s most affected is your shooting because it’s repetition. You can’t get in a flow when it comes to shooting the basketball.”

Wrestling and girls and boys swimmers have been affected, as well.

“Some of the nasty winter happened in early January, so were not into the full swing of second semester events. And now with the next batch of this arctic blast, we are in that phase — a term that swim coaches use — of tapering,” Zwitt said.

“With wrestling sectional meets beginning this Saturday and with swim sectionals soon after, regular-season events were not as jammed in the schedule as they could have been.”

No matter the sport, those standing to lose the most are the athletes themselves.

“The athletes are why we do what we do. I feel bad for them, especially the seniors, because this is supposed to be their big year,” Sears said. “I would say it’s still under 10 (postponed events) for us, but some of that has been because at times the weather hasn’t been too bad on days we’ve had a lot of events.”

“I feel sorry for our students the most. They want to compete and a lot of times weren’t even able to practice,” Regas added. “It’s tough. But at the end of the day we’re not going to jeopardize our students’ safety.”

“More than the world of athletics, I really feel for the working parents of elementary and middle school children,” Zwitt said. “Those individuals who have to determine, time after time this winter, who has to miss work, who has to stay at home until the buses arrive, who has to ask their bosses for ‘just one more late arrival’ and on and on.”

Someone who works with Regas recently informed him the number of days until the first day of spring.

For most, it can’t arrive soon enough.

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