This past Tuesday, September 10th was the hottest
day of the year in Nashville. Two days later, the Cherokee Farm All Comers Meet
in Knoxville was cancelled due to Heat Index. Tomorrow will be the first race
hosted at steeplechase and though the Event Title at which it is being competed
under may not be the same as last year's, it appears as though the conditions
will be similar.
By the time I left last year's Jr. Ward Tennessee Classic held on September 15th, there were 3 ambulances already on site treating runners for heat exhaustion and dehydration and by the time I was pulling out of the complex another was pulling in. I had tweeted a video of a runner collapsing in the training tent which I took down at the request of the Christian's Brothers who said "this runner is still being treated at the hospital." A week before that at a meet I reported from a runner from Father Ryan had to be treated by a trainer for similar heat related problems. In the video below, you can see the runner struggle to finish the race (skip to 4:15 mark).
Two weekend's prior to that at Voyle's Classic I recall having to wait to interview Central Magnet's coach as he was busy tending to their top runner Fuji Anday who had similar heat symptoms.
Outside of the high temperatures forecasted for the races they all also had one thing in common... they ran over schedule. Two of the races were delayed due to traffic before the meet even began and the other ran late due to meet management.
Last year's Tennessee Classic started at 9:00 AM and after 6 races didn't finish until well after noon. According to weather records by the time JV Runners, likely your most vulnerable, were finishing it was 90 degrees with 50% humidity which puts the heat index at 95. According to the TSSAA Heat Policy for Cross Country running this race was well within the means of their guidelines.
"TSSAA Heat Policy - Modifications for Cross Country Competition when the Heat Index is 95°-104° Athletes should have access to unlimited water before and after competition. Athletes should be monitored closely for signs of heat illness following the conclusion of the competition. Athletes should be encouraged to re-hydrate and seek shade as soon as the competition is complete."
In other words, run at your own risk. Some meet directors don't think it's a risk they want to take however. Simultaneously that same day at the Trinity Valkyrie Meet in Louisville the meet cancelled the JV race and told the coaches basically, "y'all can run if you want but we're not going to time it." As you can see there are no JV results from last year's meet page.
Even though Cross Country is considered a "Fall Sport," each year it's feeling more and more like a summer sport. Regardless of whether it's a varsity runner or JV runner, the heat does not discriminate. It will get the best of even the best at times. As we approach the midpoint of the season with no relief in sight just yet, be careful out there and good luck this weekend and next.