It's understood that winter in Ohio has the capability of being rough.
However, what the Ohio Valley has dealt with this month from Mother Nature has been a bit on the extreme side.
The continual battles with the weather, including snow and multiple blasts of Arctic air, which have held temperatures below zero, have led to many schools being closed for upwards of 10 days this month.
While the students and teachers have been at home, athletic directors and coaches have been trying to figure out what to do with all of the games that have been postponed as the OVAC and sectional tournaments are just a few weeks away.
On top of finding common dates, many schools are also battling limited gymnasium time as they try to reschedule varsity boys and girls, wrestling and junior high games.
Unfortunately, many junior high games that have been postponed might go by the boards because of a lack of dates. Obviously, schools' priorities are placed on varsity competition.
Safety of the student-athletes and fans has always been number one priority, but the tragic car accident that claimed the lives of three Oak Glen students on that snowy night of Jan. 18 has caused school officials to be even more cautious.
"I would rather postpone and reschedule a hundred times than take a chance to have to deal with something like what Oak Glen had happen," said Buckeye Local A.D. Sam Jones. "I love athletics, but when you get down to it, safety trumps the playing of a ballgame."
The OVAC Swimming Championship was held, as scheduled, last Saturday. East Liverpool elected not to participate and several other schools only sent partial squads.
One of those was Barnesville. The Shamrocks have 32 swimmers in the program, but only three made it to Steubenville High School.
Barnesville Athletic Director Mark Cook said the district elected not to send any buses out, but did permit the parents to supply their own transportation if they chose.
"We felt bad because (the swimmers) hard work and training was geared to compete well in that event," Cook said. "We felt good, though, about erring on the side of caution."
According to Cook, one of the parents who took his daughter to compete works for the school district and said afterward he probably wouldn't have went had he to do it over again.
"We make every attempt we can for OHSAA and OVAC events, but we had four buses scheduled to go out that day and couldn't shut down four and let one go to Steubenville," Cook said.
St. Clairsville hasn't had as many issues as some schools, according to Athletic Director Kelly Rine.
"We've been fortunate," Rine said. "I think we only have one girls game (against Barnesville) that hasn't been rescheduled yet. We got our game with Edison in (on Monday) and we had to move a Bellaire game one day."
The Red Devils have found themselves adjusting game times and they played a boys and girls doubleheader on Monday.
"Having everyone's cooperation is very important," Rine said. "I think everyone wants to do what's best for their kids, but, at the same time, they want to keep safety at the forefront. Our maintenance stuff did a monster job of getting the parking lot and sidewalks clear on Monday. It just takes everyone helping out."
The use of social media and group text messaging has saved atheltic directors time. In the past, they'd have multiple phone calls to make.
"I might have 40 or 50 calls (to make) and/or text messages (to send)," said Jones. "And then you have the same amount of people to reach when you re-schedule. I always want to double check, too. One of my biggest fears is a game with no officials or the other team doesn't show up."
Jones has lost count of the number of postponments he and Buckeye Local have had this season, but he does know all of the varsity events have been rescheduled.
Buckeye Local's boys basketball team lost to Edison on Wednesday night. It will be in action the next two nights as well, hosting Union Local and traveling to Harrison Central.
Bellaire's boys basketball game at Martins Ferry was one of the last to be called off on Tuesday. The Big Reds have had nearly 20 events postponed, according to A.D. Molly Feller.
"I feel bad for the kids because they put all this time into practice and then we try to cram all these games into a short amount of time just to get them in," Feller said. "I think you realize going into winter sports you're going to have these issues and you d othe best you can to get the games in, but safety is the number one concern."
Ohio schools have a bit more flexibility because the OHSAA permits athletic competition on Sunday, but the majority of schools try to avoid it at all cost. It also permits schools to play games if they've been eliminated from the tournament. West Virginia's SSAC permits neither of those.
According to Jerry Snodgrass, an assistant commissioner with the OHSAA, the last date girls can play if they're not still in the tournament is Feb. 22. The boys' date is March 1.
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