As grey skies, intermittent heavy rain and lightning forced coaches to take shelter under the overhang by the concession stand and athletes to huddle inside the gym at Jefferson Middle School nearby, Jamestown Coach Steve Sipior was busy hustling back and forth between each, talking to colleagues, checking the radar and discussing with officials whether or not the 2013 Joseph Paterniti Memorial Track & Field Classic could go on as planned.
Sipior held out hope, but as each new flash of lightning lit up the ominous skies above - prompting yet another 30-minute delay - things looked more and more bleak by the minute.
Then, a tornado warning sounded over the airwaves a little after 5 p.m., forcing the upbeat Jamestown coach to inform the patiently-waiting would-be participants that the event, for the second time in three years, was canceled.
Above, the track and field athletes hoping to compete in the Joseph Paterniti Memorial Track & Field Classic at Strider Field on Friday sought shelter in the Jefferson Middle School gym when the rains came along with lightning. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Rob Tucker
Sipior, despite being obviously disappointed, still managed to infuse a little humor into the situation.
"I actually think the tornado would help people get around the track a little faster," he quipped as athletes and coaches escaped the rain and ducked into their idling buses for the ride home.
"As soon as the tornado warning came in (we decided to call it)," he continued. "We knew that if we couldn't start the meet by 5:30 p.m., then we were sunk, and I believe it was 5 when we got another bit of thunder. We have to wait 30 minutes after (lightning) and if you look at the map, there's an awful lot of dark red coming our way. This was just the beginning of it, unfortunately."
And because the timing system (used for keeping meet results, etc.) was booked for the weekend for a different meet, the Paterniti Memorial Track & Field Classic could not simply be postponed until today.
It was an unwelcome, but understood, decision for the many athletes and coaches in attendance, especially considering that the Paterniti Memorial Track & Field Classic is one of the final invitationals of the season before the all-important, end-of-the-year championship meets are held.
"(The Paterniti Memorial Classic) is kind of the herald of the championship portion of the season," Sipior said. "Next weekend is when stuff really starts hitting the fan because after that there is the (Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Championships) and the sectional championships. So this meet really represents the last regular invitational of the year."
And one of the last remaining chances for athletes to record a state or sectional qualifying time, or even a new personal best.
"I'm bummed (it was canceled)," Maple Grove girls coach Marcus Clark said. "A lot of us wanted to try and get qualifying times for the Super 8s next weekend and for states. That's what our ultimate goal is, and when you have to take one week off (it can hurt you)."
Added Sipior, "The kids get up for this meet. It's their home meet, they get excited for it and a lot of kids came up to me and said, 'Coach, I was really feeling a personal best today.'"