News – A tough call, but the right call

10 Jun

New Jersey – The safety of spectators, athletes, coaches and officials is of major importance when it comes to planning large sporting events.  A state track meet is no exception, even during the final lap of a race.  A potentially dangerous situation was avoided by following written safety rules at the onset of a thunderstorm.

Joe Rosa, one of the top high school distance runners in the country, appeared to be on his way to breaking the New Jersey state record in the 3,200-meter run with a time worthy of being on the all-time national list when he was literally forced off the track by meet officials with one lap to go due to weather concerns.

Officials with the New Jersey Interscholastic State Athletic Association halted the eight-lap race as Rosa was preparing for his final lap, because lightning had been detected in the area. The meet was being held in Old Bridge, N.J.

NJSIAA officials made it clear: Rules dictate all events are halted and the competitors and fans must immediately leave the area if lightning is detected.

“I have four spotters looking in every direction and no one detected lightning or thunder in the area when the race started,” meet director Don Danser told the Star-Ledger. “But as soon as the lightning and thunder came, we have to stop the meet under the National Track and Field Rules. It’s a safety issue. We have fans in aluminum bleachers with lightning overhead. We had to evacuate right away.”

The decision, however, did not sit well with Rosa, his family (including twin brother Jim who was in second at the time), his coaches and others who questioned why they couldn’t run one more lap – or why the race was allowed to start in the first place.

“I guess it’s a rule, but we had one lap to go,” Jim Rosa said. “We should have been able to just finish it.”

His father, Larry, was stunned.

“The race should never have been started,” he said. “Once it started it should have been completed. This is just atrocious. My boys are running one of the biggest races of their lives and this is how it ends. I just can’t believe it.”

Neither can his coach.

“This is just bizarre,” Brian Gould said. “I don’t even know what to say. I just can’t believe this actually happened.”

Kristin Kline, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service office in Mt. Holly, N.J., just a few miles from where the meet was taking place, said the NJSIAA did the right thing.

You better believe they did the right thing!  Circumstances don’t make a difference.  I would hope the coach would stop his runners in the middle of a training run if he spotted lightning (he’d better!).  Lightning doesn’t care if you’re training for a race, running in a race or even setting a world record.  If the conditions are right, it will strike and it is in your best interest to be inside a safe shelter when the conditions dictate no matter what.

Why is this important?  Here is why!  And this death to a 13 year old boy happened within 100 miles of the NJSIAA Track meet on the SAME DAY and possibly from the same exact thunderstorm.

Kudos to the Meet Director for making the right decision.  Thumbs down to the whiners who are complaining about the decision!  It is that attitude that gets people killed by lightning.

2 Responses to “News – A tough call, but the right call”

  1. RJ June 11, 2011 at 7:19 am #

    What did stopping the race accomplish? I saw video of it, and following the stoppage of the race, everyone was still standing around on the field, and the spectators were still sitting in the aluminum stands.

  2. Paul LaDuke, ATC June 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm #

    Valid question. All I can say is that the NJSIAA probably only has jurisdiction over the athletes on the field and has no authority to force people to leave the metal stands.

    I have been to many games when game was suspended due to lightning and the players are all told to get indoors while the adults and parents often sit in stands. This is plain stupidity on the adult’s part but as they say “you can’ cure stupid.” I was recently at a game when play was suspended for lightning and since the property was private property the stands were cleared. Security ensured everyone got to a safe place. This was the correct thing to do and should be done at all sporting venues, but I guess there is not legal authority to do so on public property.

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