Athletes adapt as smoke spreads

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Maddie Loverich

Memorial Field remains quiet under a blanket of smoke on Monday.

Maddie Loverich, Sports Editor

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On Monday afternoon, Linfield cancelled all outdoor athletic practices until further notice to protect the health of student-athletes. Wildfires continue to burn around the state, creating smoky conditions and poor air quality in McMinnville. 

Practices Thursday, Friday and Monday the week before were cancelled. Monday’s announcement only lengthened the ban, acknowledging that the smoke is likely to stick around for longer than expected.

Exercising poses an extra danger in the smoky weather, as deeper breathing during exertion introduces increased opportunities to inhale particles. The main pollutant in the air, called PM-2.5, can aggravate eyes, throat and lungs. PM-2.5 particles are released from burning wood.

Students have reported a visible haze in indoor facilities, such as the weight room, pool and fieldhouse. Katie Phillips, a weight room attendant and softball player, acknowledged the difference in the air, “The smoke is inescapable,” Phillips said, “The weight room doesn’t have great ventilation, which makes it even worse.” Fans are constantly on to move air around, but it hasn’t resolved the problem. 

Practicing inside allows for considerably less exposure, but still affects athletes. “A few of my teammates have noticed that it has been harder to breathe with this level of smoke indoors,” says track and field runner Evan Kern. “So it’s a good thing we are already prepared with masks.”

As an alternative, Kern says he’s taking a break from cardio and lifting weights instead. 

On Saturday and Sunday, without an official cancellation from the school, coaches continued to cancel practice or bring teams indoors. Athletes are no stranger to cancellations, due to COVID-19 cutting their season short in the spring. 

“What more can get cancelled for us?” said softball player Kelsey Wilkinson. “It’s obviously out of our control, but it doesn’t make it less disappointing.” 

Baseball held their first day of fall tryouts outdoors as scheduled despite the Saturday morning smoke. Students were surprised as they heard the echoes of batting practice on the baseball field. 

Junior Kaden Gass highly recommended McMinnville’s Planet Fitness as an alternative until the smoke in the weight room improves. “The ventilation in Planet Fitness is amazing. Even on the worst smoky days, you can’t smell it at all.” For those with COVID-19 concerns, Gass noted that cleaning protocols are strictly followed and crowds are always minimal. 

According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, the air quality conditions are going to continue being “very unhealthy” through Wednesday. Official updates concerning outdoor practices and other precautions for students are being updated daily on Linfield’s website. 

For those hoping to get some exercise, be sure to keep an eye on the air quality index before you go. Working out at home is the safest bet at the moment, so consider rolling out the yoga mat and trying a new Youtube workout instead.