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A Change in Plans How California’s poor air quality led the MVHS cross country team to train indoors

By Justine Ha

The MVHS boys and girls cross country team had qualified to compete in the CCS championship meet, but due to circumstances regarding wildfires happening in Northern California, the likelihood of training outdoors regularly was not a possibility.

On Nov. 8, 2018, one of the deadliest wildfires in the state of California had begun. Known as ‘The Camp Fire’ and scorching over 13,000 acres of land, it has caused Northern California to be blanketed in smoke.

Photos by Justine Ha

According to The Seattle Times, this smoke can potentially impact the health of many people, and lead to “coughing, sore throats, extreme wheezing among people with a respiratory disease and cardiovascular illness.” People living in these smoky environments are highly advised to stay indoors as much as possible, as being outside for too long can potentially impede one’s health.

As a result of these safety and health issues, the MVHS cross country team had to make a change of plans, as the CCS championship meet was rescheduled twice due to the wildfires. It was originally set for Nov. 10 before it was moved to Nov. 12 and then finally to Nov. 17.

Cross country coach Kirk Flatow made the choice to move training indoors. He chose to continue practice rather than canceling training altogether, as he believes tampering with the student athletes’ training schedule is hard to regain.

“Fitness –– you can gain over a period of four months or years but it can be lost in a much shorter period of time. The fact that we have kids who've been working very hard towards these goals, some of them for four years, you don't want to have one week of bad air quality ruin that." –– MVHS cross country coach Kirk Flatow
Athletes in the MVHS cross country team continue to do their regular training on treadmills in the Northwest YMCA. Photos by Justine Ha.

Moreover, finding a place for his athletes to train wasn’t a difficult task. He was able to contact the nearby Northwest YMCA and get memberships for the athletes. Flatow believes that the YMCA has always helped MVHS athletes with whatever they needed to succeed in regards to training for meets and competitions.

“Luckily, the YMCA community has been really supportive of trying to help our kids achieve what they've been working towards and supporting them,” Flatow said.

Photos by Claire Chang

But, in regards to the student athletes who got to train indoors and their opinions, sophomore Rohun Agrawal believes that the change of pace from running outdoors to indoors was definitely a different experience for him.

“We got into a routine; you just go after school, run and usually it's really straightforward. But now, you have to find a way to get a ride back and forth to the YMCA so, it's a little more of a hassle and it's also just a different running experience on the treadmill.” –– Sophomore Rohun Agrawal

Junior Kyle Tsujimoto prefers to train indoors, and believes that training safely is more important than risking one’s health.

“It was a little bit different, as it doesn’t portray how the typical races and runs go,” Tsujimoto said. “But given the conditions outside, it’s the better option.”

The choice to continue to train was an easy decision for Flatow, as he sees these circumstances as a test for his team to handle. He believes that with the strength the Matadors have, they will move past this hurdle and continue to train no matter what circumstances they are in.

“You can either complain about how unfair something is when you really can't control it or you could say, ‘Okay this changed, now what are we going to do?’” Flatow said. ”What we’ve decided as a team and I think this team is great that way, we said, ‘Okay, this changed, here's [what] we're gonna do and we're not gonna let it bother us.”

The team took first place in the CCS D1 championship.

Created By
Justine Ha
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