HAMMOCK: Kudos to athletes braving brutal weather

Sports Editor Will Hammock 

Sports Editor Will Hammock 

As we stood on top of a wind-blown hill early Monday afternoon at the TPC of Sugarloaf's closing hole, No. 18 in the tournament layout, our decision was made.

The golfers in my group, after six holes in the annual Right To Hike Golf Tournament, decided our day was done. It was too windy and too cold for a fair-weather golfer and certainly the first time I've ever played golf amid snow flurries.

As we warmed up in the clubhouse, I thought about others braving the elements Monday in Gwinnett. At least 11 high school events took place in the wintry conditions --multiple tennis matches, lacrosse games, baseball games and, like me, Hebron Christian played golf.

"We had a little bit of a break with some trees (blocking the wind), but the wind was 20 mph and the kids tried to focus on the ball, not that," said Norcross tennis coach Hope Black, whose team defeated Collins Hill. "For those watching, it was bad. We were all huddled around heaters and bundled up like the Michelin Man. The weather's as bad as it's been in several years. I'm usually coaching in shorts by now and I can't even get into short sleeves.

"Monday was the worst I've ever seen for a tennis match as far as wind, cold, snow flurries."

As bad as it was for the tennis players, at least they were moving constantly. And they could play in sweatshirts and sweatpants.

It was even worse for the hundreds of high-schoolers at the Gwinnett County Track and Field Championships, which began Monday at Mill Creek and finished up Wednesday. They don't have the option of competing in layers upon layers of clothes.

The runners had a great tailwind for half of the track, then felt as if they were running into a hurricane for the other half. The poor pole vaulters may have had it worse than anyone.

"I'm a deer hunter, OK, so I came prepared (to Monday's track)," said Parkview athletic director Mark Whitley, also a longtime track and football coach. "I had four layers on the bottom, four layers on top. There was a brick wall over near the start and I stayed there until the last race at 9:15 (p.m.). I only moved from there twice. It took me until Tuesday afternoon to thaw out. I have never been that cold in my life. Ever."

Give credit to those track and field athletes --not to mention the coaches, parents and fans rooting them on --for toughing it out in less than ideal weather. Rather than sulk or go through the motions, numerous youngsters set personal bests on Monday.

Other athletes in other sports did just as well. Grayson and Shiloh combined for 23 runs in a baseball game. Archer baseball player Sean Fitzpatrick pitched three scoreless innings and allowed just one hit. South Gwinnett pitcher had an equally strong effort in the frigid temperatures, allowing three hits in four innings.

Hebron's boys golfers didn't win their match at The Creek at Hard Labor, but unlike me, they deserve credit for finishing the round.

That has been the theme this week for most local athletes --just do your best and finish. Hopefully warm weather is on its way soon, to thaw us all out.

After Monday, we all need it.

"It was the coldest I've ever been," Whitley said of Monday's meet. "It's easily the coldest track meet I've ever been to in 30 years of track meets. It was colder than I've ever been in a deer stand. Colder than I've ever been at a football game in late December. We were all freezing."

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.