Grand Haven Tribune: Local high schools scrambling to reschedule athletic events
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Local high schools scrambling to reschedule athletic events

Tribune Staff • Jan 31, 2019 at 7:41 PM

Unprecedented snowfall, freezing temperatures and arctic wind gusts produced by this week's polar vortex have wreaked havoc on West Michigan.

The end result has been a full week of school cancellations for local high schools and colleges, along with businesses closing their doors Wednesday and Thursday.

An extended forecast calls for higher temperatures and a break from shoveling, but that just marks the beginning of work for local athletic directors, who will be scrambling to reschedule an entire week's worth of events.

"It's a nightmare," said Grand Haven athletic director Scott Robertson. "At this stage in the season, we are running out of options on make-up dates for conference games, and we are facing some tough decisions as far as what games can even be played.

"Unless teams are willing to do back-to-back-to-back conference games, the league schedule will likely be shortened in most sports. That's really unfortunate for our kids, because they are losing out on some opportunities to get better. At the non-varsity level, a lot of those teams probably won't get these postponed games in due to scheduling conflicts."

Finding a mutual make-up date with another school is challenging enough as it is, but adding in limited gym or pool availability, along with referee scheduling, puts many athletic directors in a bind as the clock continues to wind down on the regular season for most prep sports.

"Even if we find a date that works for both schools, we still have to figure out venue logistics, schedule referees and make sure we fit all of that in before the postseason starts, which is right around the corner for most sports," said Robertson. "The postseason is an immovable object because the MHSAA has to reserve those venues so far in advance for tournaments. So the boys basketball semifinals and finals at the Breslin Center (March 14-16) and the girls basketball semifinals and finals at Calvin College (March 21-23) are set in stone.

"We are basically working backward from those dates and the district and regional dates, and trying to fit in as many contests as we can before the postseasons start. It's not ideal, but we're doing the best we can under these conditions.

"You won't find many athletic directors that enjoy snow days. A few here and there is manageable, but a full week of them together like this basically throws the entire schedule out of whack. Now, we're basically creating a whole new schedule for these last few weeks."

Weather permitting, the Grand Haven boys and girls varsity basketball teams will host Zeeland West for a non-conference doubleheader tonight at The Pit inside Lakeshore Middle School. The boys will tip off at 6, while the girls will take the floor at approximately 7:30.

IN A PINCH FOR PRACTICE

As inclement weather forced students to stay home from school, swimmers and coaches lost out on days of invaluable training on the eve of their postseason.

With conference championship meets coming in February and the state finals looming in the first week of March, teams typically make their final push of hard work in late January, before tapering off yards, weights and race-pace training to ensure strong swims at the big meets.

"It is very unfortunate timing," said Grand Haven head coach Doug Thorne. "It is kind of a catch-22. It is nice not going to school, you love to get that snow day call and sleep in a bit, but when you can't come to practice, it really affects the swimmers.

"Thursday was the first time we were allowed in the water since Saturday. We try to average 6,000 yards per day and we missed three practices and two meets. That's a lot of missed work.

The late-season push is imperative to performing well during the championship season. The taper off of training allows muscles and minds to rebuild, gleaning every ounce of improvement banked since the season began in November.

"When you are building up and getting ready to taper, to take a week off right before that happens means you start worrying about wasting all those months of work.

"The boys are probably a little out of shape. That base we have built throughout the whole season is likely diminished. Snow days aren't the kind of rest you want. They will be mentally rested, yes. But it's just being out of the pool."

Coaches now must perform a delicate balancing act. Making up the yards is possible, but gets complicated with rescheduled meets crowding the calendar. Too much work ahead of taper means it will take longer to rebuild, while too little prevents the process from working at all.

"We will come in Saturday to try and make up some of those yards, then probably run a practice before our makeup meet with West Ottawa on Tuesday just to get as many as we can back.

"We just kind of have to wait and see if I need to crank the yards for a short amount of time or go on as planned. These next two days are about getting that back and seeing how they feel. They could be a little tapered and feeling fast, they likely are a little out of shape. Depending on how they feel and look, fast, slow, strong, weak, we will make some decisions on how to proceed."

The entire taper process typically takes 2-3 weeks to rehabilitate a broken-down swimmer to their peak potential. The Bucs' O-K Red Conference Championship and Spring Lake's O-K Greater Grand Rapids Conference Championship fall on Feb. 22-23. There, swimmers without a state cut will taper, shave down and don a racing suit in a last-ditch effort to qualify for the big dance, meaning the rest clock is ticking.

Those already invited to the state meet are slightly less delicate, as they will continue full training through the conference meets, saving their taper for the big one.

Both Grand Haven and the Lakers have big plans for the state finals on March 8-9, with Spring Lake holding multiple top-seeds and the No. 3 ranking in Division 3 and the Bucs hovering in the honorable mentions of the Division 1 rankings. Time will tell what effect the polar vortex will have on the state's pool-bound athletes.

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