Dave Williams remembers the spring sports season of 1993, when Central Oregon high school teams did not see their tracks or diamonds or courts until after spring break because they were buried in deep snow.
Williams, a former longtime Mountain View baseball coach and now the athletic director at Bend High, is hoping this spring season is not a repeat of ’93.
But things are not looking good after the biggest February snowstorm in at least 118 years slammed Central Oregon last week.
“We may not see grass until April,” Williams said. “It always gets pretty chaotic during the spring with the weather. But this is crazy. This is unusual.”
Central Oregon high school baseball and softball fields, tracks and tennis courts, as well as area golf courses, remained buried under about 2 feet of snow and ice Friday. And spring sports contests are scheduled to begin on Monday.
Athletic directors from most high schools in Central Oregon met this week and collectively decided to postpone every prep sports contest scheduled in the region next week. Teams will play in the Willamette Valley if they can — such as Bend High baseball and softball possibly traveling to play at North Eugene on Monday, instead of in Bend as was originally scheduled. (But fields in Eugene are not necessarily playable yet either, as the area dealt with its own significant snowfall last week.)
Athletic directors are scrambling to get creative with scheduling, and coaches are scrambling to get creative with indoor practices across Central Oregon.
“Our track kids are running in the hallways, and softball, baseball, golf, they’re finding nooks and crannies of the school to work out in,” Williams said Wednesday.
While Willamette Valley teams typically travel to Central Oregon for contests in March to avoid the rain of Western Oregon, this season, teams on the High Desert are hoping for more events in the valley to avoid the snow.
“That’s what we’re looking at with some of our games that have been scheduled for home,” Williams said. “Sometimes we’ll even go to neutral sites that have artificial surfaces that will allow us to come in and play.”
Fields and tracks in Redmond, Prineville, Sisters, Madras and Culver are just as snow-covered as those in Bend.
“This has been the place that everyone wants to come in the spring because it’s starting to get warm, but that is not true here right now,” said Redmond and Ridgeview AD Kevin Bryant. “As much as we can (we’ll go to the Willamette Valley). But those valley fields are not necessarily ready to go either.”
Bryant said he has discussed rescheduling baseball and softball games at Willamette Valley schools, while asking to arrive 90 minutes early to get some practice time on a field because players on this side of the Cascades have been unable to practice on grass yet.
Rescheduling preseason contests will likely be difficult, the ADs say, because most teams start league play in early April.
“We’re going to find a lot of people that need games and they’re just going to have to be creative,” Bryant said.
Added Williams: “Hopefully we’ll get a window of opportunity here in the next three weeks to play some of those preseason contests, because they’re important.”
Bend High softball is scheduled for a tournament in Medford during spring break (March 23-31), and Lava Bears baseball is traveling to play in a series of games in Arizona during the break. So those teams will have opportunities for preseason games, but they might not see a snow-free field until that time, Williams noted.
Plowing or snowblowing the fields, tracks and courts are options, but they come with some risk.
“A field is one thing,” Bryant said. “Even if you did get it cleared, it’s frozen. So it’s not a good idea to go start taking ground balls, especially in 18-degree weather. And we have a brand new track at Redmond that cost us $300,000. We’re not exactly fired up about getting snowblowers out there and possibly scraping it up. And the same goes for the tennis courts, how expensive they are to refurbish.”
Official spring practices began on Feb. 25, but most Central Oregon teams missed their first four days of practice because schools across the region were closed. Since practice finally started on March 1, it has mostly been indoors.
At Bend High, the baseball and softball teams are using an indoor hitting facility and the gymnasium for workouts. The track and field team is utilizing “every little corner of the school,” according to Williams, and all sports teams are making use of the school’s cardio room, weight room and wrestling room. The golf teams are hitting into nets on the balconies of the gym, and the tennis teams are playing pickleball in the gym.
“The coaches are making the most of it and starting their programs,” Williams said. “Our coaches are doing a great job of getting things going.”
Spring sports teams at Redmond, Ridgeview and across Central Oregon are relying on the same types of indoor workouts to prepare for the season.
“To have this much snow at this time,” said Bryant, “it’s incredible how much it’s screwed up everything.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,