If you’re heading to Cessna Stadium in Wichita this weekend for the KSHSAA State Track and Field Championships, make sure you bring a poncho.
The event, scheduled for a Friday morning start, will likely be drenched with storms throughout Friday and Saturday.
The hourly forecast for Wichita, according to The Weather Channel, calls for a 55 percent-or-greater chance of thunderstorms from 11 p.m. Thursday night until 10 a.m. Friday morning.
Scattered thunderstorms are then expected to pepper Wichita through nearly all of Saturday.
Traditionally, KSHSAA will run its track and field events through rain as much as possible. Only a torrential downpour or lightning will likely force any outright delays or postponements.
“It’ll affect the jumpers a little bit more,” Parsons head coach Rob Barcus said of the potential for wet conditions. “You’re always worried running down the runway when you hit your takeoff. Our kids have spikes, though, and it’s a great track there. I’ll be worried if it’s raining really hard without lightning.”
Any lightning seen in the area of Cessna Stadium will immediately trigger a delay and a clearing of the field.
Barcus says the Vikings track team, which will bring 14 total athletes to Wichita, is staying on the Wichita State campus dorms.
“Logistically, we’ll be fine. We’re staying in the dorm, which is right by the stadium. If there’s any delay, we can walk right over there,” Barcus said.
The state track meet was recently marred by bad weather in 2016, when Friday thunderstorms caused a series of delays.
That year, KSHSAA ran timed finals and scrapped preliminary races on Saturday, which had clear weather, to make up the lost time.
“Most of our meets lately, we’ve had prelims,” Barcus said. “If KSHSAA does that this year, we’ll just have to stress that we’ll have to run our best times. I think we’ll run well either way. I’m comfortable with that.”
KSHSAA did not respond to an e-mail sent by the Parsons Sun requesting comment on any contingency plans for any potential delays or postponements of the state track meet.
The KSHSAA website tracking the state meet posted a statement at the top stating, “No changes have been made to the state track and field schedule. Updates will be posted on the KSHSAA twitter account and this page.”
The Parsons Sun also reached out to various other sports reporters in the state who intend to cover the state track meet, and none have heard from KSHSAA about any active contingency plans.
So it seems for now, KSHSAA is aiming to start the meet on Friday morning as planned and make decisions on the fly.
If inclement weather prohibits KSHSAA from holding the meet, questions arise as to when the organization will decide to make up the meet. KSHSAA traditionally avoids holding events on Sundays and Monday is Memorial Day, a federal holiday.
If KSHSAA decides to postpone the meet to next week sometime, Barcus said the Parsons team would likely return home then return to Wichita on the day of events.
Another potential issue is that many of the volunteers that assist KSHSAA in running the state track meet have full-time jobs throughout the week.
Due to the tornado damage in Jefferson City, Missouri, MSHSAA, the Missouri equivalent of KSHSAA, announced that it had moved the Class 3, 4 and 5 state track meet from there and split it up to three locations that will hold one-day meets on Saturday.
Splitting up the classes in Kansas to different locations would be an unprecedented move in recent history and could create a logistical nightmare.
The storms that have battered the state throughout the week have already caused various delays and postponements in other state championship events this week. Every state golf tournament was postponed in some fashion, with Classes 2A, 4A and 6A restarting on Tuesday, May 28.
The 6A, 5A, 4A and 2-1A baseball and softball tournaments are operating on a rolling schedule for the duration of the tournament, with games starting 25 minutes after the previous one ended.
Barcus said that his preference, if weather permits, is for KSHSAA to push through this weekend and get the state track meet in as quickly as possible.
“If we have to go timed finals, I think that’s the best way to do it,” Barcus said. “You’re there and ready to compete. You’re preparing for it all week. If you mess that routine up, it affects the kids. For convenience, I’d prefer to stay there and get it done.”