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Investigation begins on heat problems at cross-country meet

October 1, 2010 |  9:18 am

The City Section athletics office and Los Angeles Unified School District are evaluating what went wrong Thursday at Pierce College in Woodland Hills when 10 runners were taken to hospitals with heat-related problems.

Superintendent Ramon Cortines was not pleasedthat the nonleague meet with hundreds of runners went on in 97-degree temperatures.

One problem was that runners didn't practice Monday because of a ban on outside practices for excessive heat. And Tuesday was a staff development day, which means more practice was missed.

"LAUSD has a little to blame because cross country is something you have to do on a daily basis," Birmingham Coach Scott King said.

The real problem might not be the weather, but whether coaches appropriately prepared their runners and whether the runners actually listened to their coaches.

Belmont High School had 30 runners compete, and none had problems, Coach Jose Merino said. And that's because the runners were told to hydrate and eat fruit before racing, and Merino made it clear he didn't need them to go all out.

"I told my kids, 'Don't worry too much about racing. Go over the course and have fun,' " he said. "Some were running, some were jogging."

Merino said he tells his runners every day to drink water and eat bananas.

"If a kid is hydrated the right way, they wouldn't have had these problems," he said.

Merino said he has a girl runner who hates fruit.

"Three days ago, I made her start eating fruit," he said. "She had no problems."

Merino said whether it's 95 or 75 degrees, problems for runners can happen "if the student doesn't eat right or doesn't hydrate right."

"You can tell them 100 times, and they don't listen," he said. "They think they're Superman, and they can get away with anything."

So maybe before canceling the cross-country season because of warm weather, the City Section might want to have a talk with its coaches and athletes to make sure everyone understands what is required to be a runner.

-- Eric Sondheimer