UPJ athletes embrace warm weather

Sean Sauro, Staff Writer

Leftover snow and ice melt away, professors move their classes outside to the campus mall and students walk to class in shorts and flip-flops.

It seems that spring has arrived.

This year, a low amount of snowfall and unusually warm weather allowed most of the winter months to resemble something close to spring.

WJAC-TV meteorologist Tony Martin said the average annual snowfall for this area is about 60 inches. Also, he said, last year, many areas across the Laurel Highlands saw more than 100 inches.

Martin said this year, however, the Greater Johnstown area received only about half as much snow as usual.

“This year we only picked up right around three feet of snow,” said Martin. “That includes the surprise snowstorm of Halloween weekend.”

These unusual weather patterns have provided some Pitt-Johnstown sports teams with and added edge in their practices this year.

Baseball coach Todd Williams said that the unusual weather has allowed the baseball team to get a lot more outside practice at the Point Stadium in downtown Johnstown.

Williams said because they also are able to practice indoors, the amount of practice was not extended. However, he said they were able to get outside around 12 to 14 time this January and February.

“It’s nice to get outside,” said Williams. “That’s where baseball is meant to be played.”

Golf coach Patrick Greer shared the enthusiasm of being able to get outdoors. He said that, as a result of the warm weather, the team was able to get out to Windber Country Club to practice on actual greens.

Greer said that matches have been canceled due to bad weather in the past, but, so far this year, everything is looking good for their first match this weekend.

“We’ve been lucky. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed that it doesn’t start snowing in April.”

Despite the benefits the mild winter presented for many sports teams, it has been disadvantageous for the Pitt-Johnstown Ski Club.

Ski Club President Justin Wolfe said the warm weather and lack of snow has made it difficult for them to get out to the slopes.

“We probably took only around 10 trips this year,” said Wolfe. “Previous seasons we broke 20.”

With their outdoor season starting March 24, the UPJ track team said they have been embracing the warm weather and practicing outside.

Middle-distance and distance runner Lindsey Roessler said the weather has provided the distance runners with more practice.

“So far, we have been very lucky with the weather. It has been very nice and cool and, for the distance runners, we are now able to use the cross-country course and really get a lot of miles in to work on our endurance,” said Roessler.

“For the field events, they have also been able to do run-throughs and really get a feel for their events. This is really helpful for our season because we really excel in our field events,” said Roessler.

Sophomore jumper Jennifer Drover said the nice weather gives her access to equipment that wasn’t available indoors.

“I need access to the jumping pit, so it will help a lot being able to be outside this early because I’ll have more time to practice.”

Middle distance runner and sophomore Khellya Okunor Osei said, although running outdoors so early helps provide a leg up on the competition, a difficult transition from indoor running comes earlier.

“For me, it is definitely hard, especially in the first week, to go from running indoors to going outside,” said Osei. “The track is twice as big, the fresh air is weird to get used to at first and the wind sometimes blows against you.

“It can really take a lot out of you. The external factors work against you in moving from indoor track to outdoor, but that’s when you just find more inside you and push.”

Facing the outdoor wind, freshman sprinter Lauren L’Herbier said the team could improve their times even earlier.

“When we were in indoors, we never had to worry about the wind pushing us in all different directions, so it is good to practice with the wind resistance,” said L’Herbier. “I think that being outside this early will improve our times drastically.”

L’Herbier said she hopes the warm weather continues in order to avoid injury.

“Personally, the colder weather slows me down, and my muscles do not want to move as fast and tend to get tight and sore very quickly,” said L’Herbier.

“I hope the weather stays warm for our meets that are coming up. I think it will help our team stay healthy and strong.”

Track and field coach Jim Herlinger said the ability to get outside sooner has been the biggest benefit for the team.

“Last year we had to stay inside for several weeks because the weather was just too cold and the track was still covered in snow,” said Herlinger.

He said the warm weather has allowed the team to get out and run the distances they will actually run in their meets.

Junior thrower and sprinter Stephanie Szczur said although the warm weather has been nice to practice in, the outcome of an event still depends on the athlete.

“Some days you have bad weather and still do better at some events, so it just depends on the person and event,” said Szczur.

“Regardless, no matter what the weather, the girls on the team are expected to give their all and perform as best as they can.”