By Matt Taylor

While the Methow Valley got a brief break over the weekend from the smoke, the clear conditions did not last. With the return of poor air quality, valley athletes and coaches wait and adapt, hoping for a more permanent reprieve.

“This is definitely a challenge for our teams,” said Liberty Bell Athletic Director Chase Rost. “We’ll get by, but it’s a pain.”

With practices for all high school fall sports starting within the week, coaches are apprehensive.

According to state guidelines, outdoor practices are only permitted as long as air quality is measured below 150 ppm. In recent weeks, air quality has consistently been measured above that threshold.

Indoor practices present coaches with unique challenges. “We don’t have room to do certain things you can do outside,” said Liberty Bell Football coach Bob Bucsko.

“We’re really hoping the air is clear by then,” said the Mountain Lions’ women’s soccer coach, Lincoln Post. If not, “we’ll just have to adapt.”

Rost anticipates that the conditions will be particularly challenging for the school’s cross country runners. “I don’t know how many laps they would have to run around the halls to get a full workout,” he said.

Though conditions are less than ideal, the smoke shouldn’t put Liberty Bell athletes at a competitive disadvantage. All of the Mountain Lions’ competitors are struggling with similar conditions. “We have to remind ourselves that we’re not the only ones,” said Rost.

The Methow Valley Nordic Ski Team, which trains year round, has also been forced to take extreme measures to adapt to the challenging conditions.

“When we’ve been there [in the valley], we’ve had to cancel workouts,” said coach, Leslie Hall. Many athletes, determined to not derail their training, are doing workouts, including distance and interval training, on treadmills in gyms.

The team’s camp, hosted every August at Lake Pearrygin, was relocated at the last minute to Oakridge, Oregon, a small town west of the Cascades near Salem. Despite the move, the camp retained the majority of its participants.

Competitive athletes are not the only ones who been affected by the smoke. Business is booming in valley gyms.

“We’ve definitely had more drop-ins,” said Brett Kokes, co-owner of Winthrop Physical Therapy and Fitness. “On your average day we’ll have 3-5 non-members come in. Recently, it’s been closer to 5 – 10.”