Over the past week, temperatures in Frederick County went from bone-chilling cold to unseasonably warm.
And on Wednesday, the area got drenched with rain.
These fluctuations probably didn't effect local high school basketball players, swimmers or wrestlers too much — aside from canceling a practice or postponing a game. But the drastic changes were felt keenly by indoor track and field athletes. Of all winter athletes in this county, they are the ones who truly must cope with winter weather.
No county high school possesses an indoor track — the closest facility is at Hagerstown Community College. So athletes often must either brave the cold to hone their skills outside or retreat inside, where practice options can be limited.
Indoor coaches closely monitor the unpredictable Maryland winter weather to see what they can squeeze into practices each day. When Thomas Johnson boys coach Rob Wilhelm saw the temperature soar to the mid-60s on Tuesday, he decided to add high jumping to the list of actitivities that day. With no indoor mats, the Patriots can only do actual jumps outside.
"I was like, 'Hey guys, let's do it today,'" Wilhelm said. "We kind of shift things around."
But those plans were foiled because the jumping pits were soaked.
Some events can be practiced better indoors than others.
"Sprinters and even jumpers can get away from doing a lot of the stuff inside, but the thing that hurts a lot is the distance runners because they don't get mileage," Catoctin coach Terri Gibbons said. "My distance runners, they get pretty stressed about that."
Wilhelm says his distance runners are usually chomping at the bit to run outside — they just make sure to bundle up.
"We're outside as much as possible unless it's absolutely ridiculously cold like it was last week when the wind chill was like sub 20 degrees. And then we'll try to see what we can do inside. But for the most part, distance guys, they're outside," Wilhelm said. "Sprinters, on the other hand ... for me, if it falls below 38, 37 degrees and depending on the workout, we going to keep them inside. Especially if it's a hard workout with speed."
Preparing for relays can also prove challenging in the cold. Runners can't get a feel for handing off the baton with gloves on, after all.
"It's hard to practice the baton when it's below freezing," Gibbons said. "You try to practice them inside sometimes, but that's totally different. You can't get up to the proper speed ... it makes it hard to simulate the handoffs."
Still, athletes use their indoor time as wisely as possible. Wilhelm pointed out that his high jumpers can still do work to prepare for meets.
"I know some schools have indoor mats. We don't, so basically we've got to make do," he said. " We'll work on getting down steps, getting down approaches, things like that. (As for) jumping inside, that's not going to happen. We just work on getting our steps down and getting our rhythm down."
When Sam Shipley — TJ's standout pole vaulter — was forced to stay inside because because of bad weather, he did calasthenics such as wall pushups.
Understandably, Wilhelm and Gibbons both pay close attention to weather reports so they can adjust their practice plans accordingly. And keep in mind, weather can vary significantly in Frederick County. Gibbons sees proof of that on her daily, northbound commute from Frederick to Catoctin, located at the foot of the mountains.
"As I go up to school, the sun's coming up, the temperature's dropping on the thermometer of my car," she said. "And on the way home, even though the sun's going down, it gets warmer on my way back to Frederick."
While Gibbons was thrilled with Tuesday's mild weather, she pointed out that her team's training was limited for another reason. Catoctin is getting new stadium lights, which has kept the team out of the stadium.
"So we can't even practice on the track even on days that it's nice right now," she said. "(We use) parking lot space whenever we can. And we're actually getting a bus to Walkersville a few days a week and running on the track when they're practicing. That has been really awesome, that they've shared the time with us."