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Heat A Problem At U.S. Junior Champs

The early summer temps are in the high 80s--a challenge for competitors.

The early summer temps are in the high 80s–a challenge for competitors.

(c) Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

DES MOINES, IOWA, USA (20-Jun) — Throughout day-one of competition here at the USA Outdoor Track & Field Championships, one major factor was impacting nearly all participants: the heat. Beaming down above the 14,557-seat Drake Stadium was the bright sun, causing temperatures to climb into the upper-80’s Fahrenheit (30C) and humidity to increase to 53%.

Over the five-day meeting in Iowa’s state capital, the sun is sure to affect times and competition, as shown early Thursday in the Junior races. With events going throughout the morning and afternoon, it was evident that the conditions had taken their toll on the young athletes.

“It is hot! The sun was just draining me out there,” said Olicia Williams moments after timing 2:08.88, the fastest qualifying mark of the women’s Junior 800m. The rising sophomore at Baylor University –a school located in Texas, one of the hottest states in America– was even surprised by the temperatures.

“Baylor is cooler than this right now,” she said with a laugh. Learning from today, Williams said she’d focus more on hydration for tomorrow’s final, to be run at 7:20 p.m. just as the sun will be setting.

Making matters worse for athletes is that their is no overhang above the stadium, providing zero shade on the blue all-weather track.

Brigham Young University’s Marcus Dixon, winner of the first section of the men’s junior 800m, hadn’t yet adjusted to the temperatures, though was confident going into his race.

“It is so dry and humid, I was sweating before the race,” he said, sweat still dripping from his brow. “We were in Texas for [NCAA] Regionals four weeks ago and I thought it wasn’t going to be as bad as that.”

Christina Melian of the State University of New York at Stony Brook came in with a qualifying mark of 9:37.59 for 3000m. Today she ran 9:45.06 for the win, a very credible mark considering numerous athletes ran far off their personal bests due to the heat.

“I tried not to focus on it ’cause I’m not really used to the heat like this,” she said. “It was definitely pretty challenging, but that’s what running is all about.”

The only ones to get sort of a break from the temperatures were contestants in the Junior men’s 3000m steeplechase, splashing through the water pit each lap. Though winner Tate Schienbein dealt with the temperatures with ease, many were not as lucky. A total of eight athletes didn’t record marks under 9:53.

Walking through the mixed zone following their races, nearly all athletes clutched large jugs of water and Gatorade, while a few wore ice cooling vests in hopes of keeping their core temperatures down.

The next three days look to provide little solace from the current conditions. According to the National Weather Service, Friday calls for a high of 90F with a chance of thunderstorms, while Saturday tops out at 92F and Sunday 89F.