The heat is on.
After a relatively cool and even rainy August, this week’s stretch of torrid late-summer temperatures pushing the century-mark has high school administrators, coaches and athletes feeling the heat in more ways than one.
Rapid City Stevens, Central and St. Thomas More sent students home early Tuesday because of temperatures soaring to the mid- to upper 90s for a second straight day.
The Rapid City Area Schools Students will students will also be dismissed today at 1 p.m.
“Three weeks ago we’d have said it would be crazy to have something like this. It was balmy and we had all this rain. You just never know,” Stevens activities director Jared Vasquez said.
Just like a school day cut short because of a blizzard, the early out also meant the cancellation of all extracurricular activities, including sports practices, for Stevens and Central.
“It’s an early release due to extreme conditions,” Vasquez said.
The forecast calls for baking temperatures to continue through at least Friday. The heat wave could jeopardize a heavy weekend slate of football, cross country, girls softball and tennis, boys golf and boys and girls soccer, including the Rapid City Invitational girls tennis tournament set for Friday and Saturday at the Sioux Park and Parkview complexes.
Friday’s season-opening football game between Central and Sioux Falls Lincoln at O’Harra Stadium is also in jeopardy.
“The district is trying not to predict too far ahead (concerning the weekend’s schedule). We know things can change quickly,” Vasquez said.
Cobblers head football coach Trent Pikula said Tuesday’s early release also cancelled a scheduled school fund-raiser set for Tuesday night. All sports practices were moved to early Wednesday morning to avoid the heat of the day.
Pikula said his players did get through drills in the heat on Monday, although the lack of a breeze late in the afternoon made conditions even more stifling.
“We have six managers constantly running water and we have ice at the field. We tell the kids to step out (and rest) if they need to. We’re just taking those steps to make sure the kids stay safe,” Pikula said.
The weekend forecast promises a slight break in the weather, with highs in the upper 80s.
St. Thomas More head coach Wayne Sullivan said afternoon practice continued for the Cavaliers as they prepare for a scheduled Saturday season-opener against Spearfish, set for 7 p.m. at Dutton Field.
“It was more of a walk-through — a lot of water — and we tried to put in the little things,” Sullivan said. “We’re just trying to make sure we’re sticking to our game-week routine.”
Sturgis coach Bill Godsil said this summer’s weather was a welcome change to his former post in Grand Junction, Colo., where late summer temperatures exceeded 100 degrees.
“I was loving that 70-degree weather, then it’s the first week of school and all of a sudden it’s hotter than heck,” he said.
Godsil used weight room workouts and team meetings to keep his team out of the heat until late afternoon, but still had full practices Monday and Tuesday as the Scoopers prepare to host Harrisburg at Woodle Field.
“We just weren’t out there in the dead heat of the afternoon for two hours,” he said.
Douglas coach Dan Maciejczak said the Patriots also practiced Monday and Tuesday afternoons, but added water breaks, had ice available and also allowed players to remove helmets and shoulder pads for non-contact conditioning drills.
The Patriots travel to Belle Fourche for a Black Hills Conference game at 6 p.m. Saturday.
Today’s practice for the Patriots has been moved to 5:15 a.m., but Maciejczak said drills on Thursday are set for 6 p.m.
“It should be cooler by then to beat the heat,” Maciejczak said. “We’ve got to prepare, but we still have to protect our bodies.”
John Krogstrand, assistant executive director of the South Dakota High School Activities Association, reminded school athletic directors and coaches in an email that they have the option of postponing or rescheduling games, especially outdoor football contests.
He also sent an email to referees, reminding them they are not immune to heat illnesses and should remain hydrated during games.
“I would strongly recommend that every game this week use not only the heat time-out near the mid-point of each quarter, but also give consideration to the extended time-outs during changes of possession, etc.,” Krogstrand said. “The safety of our student athletes needs to be the top priority this weekend, and additional time for ‘cool-down’ is only appropriate.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.