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Smoke moves in on high school sports, outdoor activities

Air quality cancels events, practices move indoors

Outdoor activities canceled because...

BEND, Ore. - Watery eyes, scratchy throat, bit of a rasp to your voice? You’re far from alone.

Central Oregon has become less of a hotspot for campers and more of a campfire itself.

Which means sports and outdoor activities are less happy and more hazy.

Kevin Cooper, a teacher and football coach at Bend Senior High, said moving sports inside isn't easy.

"You try and tell a teenage boy to be mentally sharp inside, when it’s an outdoor activity," Cooper said Wednesday. "It doesn’t work all the time, but we’ll try our best."

For most high schools in the Bend-La Pine district, outdoor practice is now indoor practice.

That includes La Pine High School, where Athletic Director Aaron Flack has had to make quite a few changes to the schedule.

"The biggest thing right now is the practice, being able to monitor those and being able to go indoors. It limits what we can do," Flack said.

"We can do a lot of chalk talk and that sort of thing on whiteboards, but as far as really getting out there and physically doing things, it limits what we can do," he added. 

The first football game of the season for La Pine is a home game, but because of all that smoke, it just might have to be an away game.

Cooper said this is new for the school.

"Through education, we've got a lot of acronyms," Cooper said. "And we learned a new one, our air quality index AQI, so now we know what is good and what is bad -- and ironically, we didn’t even know that existed in Bend."

"This week, it came into play, and we see that we have worse air quality than Beijing -- and that’s not good," he said

The Bend Park and Recreation District also closed down and canceled activities, including its youth sports programs and water sports rentals, said Communications and Community Relations Manager Julie Brown. 

"Having smoky skies in Central Oregon is not uncommon for summers, but this particular stretch of it is a longer duration and more intense than we’ve experienced in the past, so for a lot of our programs this is the first time we’ve had to cancel for air quality," Brown said. 

Despite the scratchy eyes and smelly skies, some, including Cooper, say it's not so bad.

"We just have to realize that not being outside is the minimal concern right now -- making sure everybody is safe," he said. “You know what? In the grand scheme of things, we can deal with a little smoke, and we're pretty safe here in Bend. This is small potatoes.”

High school officials say they will be updating schedules on a day-by-day basis depending on air conditions.

For more information on which activities are canceled with the Bend Park and Rec District, head to this website: http://www.bendparksandrec.org/about_us/air-quality-and-smoke-updates/

 


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