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ASD OKs shoveling snow off soccer fields, but getting teams outdoors is still a work in progress

Alaska Dispatch News - 4/14/2017

April 14--Anchorage prep soccer teams were given the OK from the Anchorage School District to shovel snow off three turf fields this week in hopes of getting teams outdoors soon.

Teams have been practicing indoors since the beginning of March, and until Wednesday they were not allowed to clear fields at their schools. On Wednesday, players partially cleared the turf fields at Chugiak, East and Service.

Originally, the school district said teams needed to wait until the snow melted. That policy changed after Monday's school board meeting, when parents and players made their case for shoveling the snow.

"... I think we had five parents that testified and a couple of Service High girls testified and our superintendent (Deena Bishop) just asked us to continue to be creative and see if we couldn't find a different way to do things," said Derek Hagler, the district's activities director for secondary education.

"So I took that and our maintenance staff took that as permission to do what we've never done before and to try to clear off some of those fields."

Hagler said Chugiak, East and Service were chosen because they are geographically diverse and have places to move the snow.

In the last decade, ASD's policy was to let the snow on the turf fields melt naturally in order to protect them from potential damage.

The Dome provided a venue for early season games, but this year the collapse of The Dome in January and a snowy winter have kept Anchorage teams indoors, practicing in gymnasiums. Last season, teams were practicing outdoors by March 28.

Ann Keffalos, the mother of two South High soccer players, said parents have been in contact with ASD and the city to find safe ways to get fields cleared so teams can get outside.

"Obviously we're disappointed that things weren't handled on a more timely basis, but really the goal is just to get the boys outside," Keffalos said. "They've been practicing in the gym since March 1st and there have been some boys who have received concussions, there have been some that have been rolling ankles.

"They just need to be outside running and practicing because the turf is a lot softer on their bodies than the gym floor is."

[With no Dome and no clear fields, Anchorage soccer teams still stuck inside]

On Wednesday, teams were able to partially clear fields at Chugiak, East and Service, but getting them ready for play is a slow process, Hagler said.

As of Thursday evening, he said, snow remained on every field in town. Once they are clear of snow, the remaining ice and water will need to melt and drain before the fields will be playable, he said.

Snow also remains on the turf field at Kincaid Park, which was partially shoveled Sunday.

"Of course people think we can just knock this thing out, but there's a lot of snow out there," Hagler said.

Hagler said the school district used a snow blower at Begich Middle School with some success and may be able to do the same at other fields in the coming days.

Fields won't be ready in time for Saturday's scheduled games. Conditions will be reevaluate next week, he said.

"The biggest thing ... is we still have to wait for these fields to clear out and dry out, and just as soon as it's safe to get on them we will," Hagler said. "But right now they're full of water and ice and slush and the turf is still frozen. We've just gotta give it a little time."

Three games have been scrapped thus far, leaving Cook Inlet Conference coaches and CIC coordinator Luke Almon with the tough task of deciding which games to reschedule and which to cancel.

"I think we can reschedule two (games) and not short teams games, but we go too much past that and it's going to get more difficult just because we have less time and less space to schedule them," Almon said.

Dimond 2, Wasilla 0

Tatumn Willis and Gretchen Dana scored goals Thursday to lead the Dimond Lynx past the Wasilla Warriors 2-0 in a nonconference girls soccer game in Wasilla.

Willis scored a first-half goal off an assist from Kylie Judd. Dana's goal came in the second half on a nice move inside the box.

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(c)2017 the Alaska Dispatch News (Anchorage, Alaska)

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