A bitter cold March is going out like a lamb. Ask Caroline Bouchard what she thinks about current spring weather, and she might answer . . . “Ew!”
Guilderland resident Bouchard, 17, who plays shortstop on the Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School softball team, has been practicing for her senior season in the school’s gym and hallways. “It’s been a real struggle, playing in the gym,” Bouchard said on Friday. “We’ve always been outside by mid-March.”
Bouchard and other area student athletes have been stretching, running, swinging, throwing and catching in school gymnasiums and corridors since early March. Snow and ice are recent departures from tennis courts, running tracks and baseball, softball and lacrosse fields. But games scheduled for early April have already been postponed because grounds are not ready.
“So far, during the month of March, the average high has been 35.5 degrees and the average low has been 16.2 degrees,” said Ian Lee, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany. “Compared to the normal values for March, the normal high is 44.4 and the normal low is 25.7. So we’re running about 9 degrees below normal for the month of March.”
The eternal winter of 2014 has also affected motor sports. The season opener at Fonda Speedway, scheduled for April 5, has already been canceled. “There’s like 2 feet of frost in the ground,” said promoter Matt DeLorenzo. “It needs to warm up in the 60s for a few days so we can get the frost out of the track and start working the track with our equipment to get the track ready. I’m hoping for April 12.”
Teenagers preparing for their own speed games — 200-meter dashes and dashes to home plate — have been cooling their heels indoors. “Without live pitching, it’s hard,” said Victoria Maddalone, 17, of Schenectady, ND-BG’s second baseman. “We’ve already missed a couple scrimmages. So it will be hard getting into the first games.”
Bouchard, Maddalone and their teammates were supposed to open their season Friday at Middleburgh. Poor field conditions — and the daylong rain — provided enough reasons to call the game.
At Scotia-Glenville High School, teams have also been practicing in gyms. The Tartans’ state champion basketball team had first dibs on the high school court.
“They practiced through the 14th of March, so that’s a two-hour block that ate some time,” said Jamian Rockhill, the school’s physical education and athletics director. “So on top of every outdoor sport that we have needing indoor space through the month of March . . . that was a challenge. Coaches did a good job of not being too stressed out about it and working together.”
Rockhill will remember this spring for the Tartans’ undefeated hoop season — but also for the persistent cold.
“This is the worst in recent memory,” he said. “I’ve been an athletic director in the area since 2003, and every spring brings its challenges, but certainly this is by far the worst.”
Rockhill added that while snow is fading, there are still 2 feet of frost in school fields. “To play the games of baseball and lacrosse you need grass,” he said. “We’re not looking like we’re going to have that. Even your track and field can’t get started — your track is open, but you can’t do a long jump, you can’t do pole vault safely, you can’t do shot and disc. . . . the only things that can be held at the moment are lacrosse matches on artificial turf.”
Athletes have been trying to cope with delays. Anne Ryan, 17, a junior distance runner at ND-BG, has had some outdoor workouts. But she’s also been running the hallways inside the Albany Street school.
“The sprinters do the hallways too,” said Ryan, who lives in Guilderland. “So sometimes we run into each other a little bit.”
Scotia’s Jennifer Cerutti, 17, a senior sprinter, said air quality is better outside. “It’s hard to breathe, it’s so hot in the hallways,” she said. “At the end, we’re all like on the floor.”
Ryan can’t recommend exterior exercise sessions either. Frigid air has joined the distance crew on some jaunts. “It’s been really windy, too,” Ryan said. “But I think that helps with stamina.”
On Friday, Scotia-Glenville freshman Kira Bonanza, 15, and junior Dominique “Dom” Puglisi, 16, ran the basketball court with their lacrosse sticks. The S-G varsity lacrosse team already has its first win, notched at Schenectady High School’s all-weather field.
Glenville’s Bonanza recently moved to the Capital Region from Rome; she’s used to snow on the ground through the middle of April.
“By two weeks into April, I think we’ll be good — maybe,” said Puglisi, who also lives in Glenville. “It’s starting to rain, and that means something’s happening.”
Other athletes have taken proactive approaches to reclaim their sport from winter. Senior Tartan tennis player Adam Ashcroft, 17, said players have shoveled off tennis courts. “We do that almost every day,” Ashcroft said. “A lot of ice you have to chip away.”
At Mohonasen High School in Rotterdam, the baseball and softball teams haven’t been outside yet. Joe Scalise, the school’s athletic director, has seen crowded school interiors.
“We’re utilizing every space we can,” Scalise said. “Coaches are being creative, using the weight room, doing different training. Coaches are being creative to keep the kids focused and motivated at practice. For example, our baseball coaches have been doing some fitness workouts.”
Three tennis courts are ready for Mighty Warrior players. “The other three have a little bit of snow and ice on them,” Scalise said. “We’re hoping in the next couple days we can get on all of them.”
Joe Dobkowski, a pitcher, catcher and third baseman on ND-BG’s baseball team, has been on the Golden Knights’ home diamond. “Pretty muddy,” he said.
No mud in the gym. But Dobkowski would rather be fielding grounders on warm earth instead of under a basketball net. “Sometimes, they come faster than they would on the field,” he said.
There’s no chance to enjoy a long shot in the school batting cage, either — there can be no long shots in a gym.
“The net stops it,” Dobkowski said. “You never know how far it really goes.”