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Air quality hampering area high school athletics

UPDATED: Mon., Aug. 24, 2015

With the air quality index soaring, local high schools are having a tough time fitting in outdoor practices. (Jesse Tinsley)
With the air quality index soaring, local high schools are having a tough time fitting in outdoor practices. (Jesse Tinsley)
With smoky air socking in the Inland Northwest, fall sports teams throughout the area canceled outdoor practices Monday and have braced for more cancelations. The Greater Spokane League administrators last week adopted a policy to deal with unhealthy air conditions. “If the air quality is unhealthy, all outside practices for all schools in all sports are canceled,” GSL secretary Herb Rotchford said. Rotchford and other administrators said the air quality index must be under 150 for outdoor practices and games. The outdoor sports teams are allowed to go indoors to practice, Rotchford said. That has athletic directors from the GSL to the Great Northern League to the Northeast A and the Inland Empire League scrambling to coordinate practice times in gyms. In North Idaho, season openers in football for many teams are scheduled for Friday. With the likelihood of poor air quality lingering through the week, Lake City and Coeur d’Alene have secured game times for Friday at the Kibbie Dome with Lake City playing Rocky Mountain of Meridian at 3 followed by CdA taking on Skyline of Idaho Falls at 5:30. Grangeville and Moscow also will play there at 8. Rotchford sent out an email Monday reminding all GSL athletic directors that if all practices are canceled, that means all practices are canceled for all schools. “Regardless of the sport, all schools must honor the policy,” Rotchford said. “For example, a cross country team from one school may not travel to the west side of the state to train outside this week or go up to Mt. Spokane to train in more suitable air if all other member schools are unable to do the same thing.” The GNL, NEA and IEL haven’t adopted a league wide air quality policy per se, but they’re all looking at the same air quality index and aren’t allowing their teams to practice when the index is worse than 150. “We canceled a football scrimmage Friday night,” Winger said. “We did some walk throughs outside this morning but the teams are all inside. As a school district we’re working on a policy.” In the Spokane area, football jamborees at the end of the week are likely to be canceled, Rotchford said. “The way it looks we may be dealing with this all the way through the rest of the fall,” Rotchford said. “It’ll be week to week, maybe day to day, considering the extent of wildfires in the state. We’re going to have smoky, hazy air quality the rest of the fall until the winter rains come. We’ll need to pay attention to it very closely.” It’s days like Mondays – when there’s little to no wind – that the smoke covers the area like a blanket. “If the winds pick up you’ll have some ebb and flow with this,” Rotchford said. “This is unprecedented. We’ve never dealt with this before.” Colville athletic director Kelly Carr said his teams are scheduled to be inside all week. “The football team was able to get outside Saturday morning because the air was crystal clear,” Carr said. “But it doesn’t look very good for us the rest of the week. We’re just in default mode. We’re not anticipating being able to be outside.”

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