Smoke, Smoke Go Away

The smoke that halted the outdoor sports season


Photo: Annabel Wickham

A screenshot of the weather app from October 20, 2022. This screenshot illustrates the dangerous air quality level of 198 at University Prep and 223 for the general Seattle area.

As October came to a close, the smoke that once plagued Seattle due to the limited rain, record-high temperatures and increased wildfires began to dissipate. 

While the smoke is gone from the skies, it still clouds the minds of many. University Prep Athletic Director Rebecca Moe had not seen smoke like this in over 20 years.  

“I’ve dealt with snow. I’ve dealt with ice. I’ve dealt with rain. I’ve dealt with wind. I’ve dealt with thunder and lightning. I’ve dealt with a pandemic, but this year it is the smoke,” Moe said. 

According to National Weather Service Seattle’s Twitter, on October 20th 2022, the air quality calculator reached hazardous conditions. Moe constantly checked the air quality index to see if it passed 101. The WIAA’s guidelines advise canceling children’s outdoor athletic events and practices if the air quality surpasses that number.

Though the smoke has now cleared out, the smoke had a lingering affect on these outdoor sport seasons. The routine of typical sports seasons has been made complicated as schools were forced to coordinate season games and races after canceling them due to the dangerous air quality. Senior Sophie Ziedalski feels that these cancellations have hindered her cross-country season. 

“The cancellations have really taken a toll on our team,” Ziedalski said. “There are way fewer practices, and practices have often shifted indoors which is unfortunate.”

Varsity Cross Country Head Coach Kayla Robertson agrees that the canceled cross country races have been unfortunate. However, the team found ways to create something fun out of an unexpected situation by venturing to Discovery park after their invite was canceled.

“It was pretty awesome, seeing them wear their race uniform and run as a team through the park,” Robertson said in an email. “Most of them had never run there before either, so it was a special treat and great alternative to racing. We also had to treat them with post-practice snacks, chocolate milk, and popsicles.”

Throughout the sports season, Moe communicated with her fellow athletic directors to ensure they could reschedule the games and races. Though Moe understands that misfortune arose due to this situation, the health of the students always comes first.

“You never want to compromise health and safety,” Moe said. “With a school, you have to have a high-level threshold for risk management. You got to make the decisions with the information you have and in cooperation with your peer schools.”