Of the litany of reasons to leave a game early, a tornado warning has to be pretty high up the list. For that alone, fans who left last Thursday night's girls soccer game between Athens (Ohio) High School and Alexander (Ohio) High should be cut some slack.
In fact, those fans proved to have the most foresight. What began as a lightning delay holding off the start of the second half gave way to a tornado warning and, eventually, an actual tornado. The storm was the first tornado in some 37 years to hit The Plains, Ohio, where Athens was hosting Alexander in a game that finished without an official result because of the storm.
The Athens boys soccer team was at the girls game when the tornado hit, and the team's coach said it was clear if his entire team hadn't evacuated the field when they did, they might not have made it.
Here's what Athens boys coach Issac Thomas and sophomore girls player Kate Vancouver told WSAZ-TV it was like to huddle in the team's locker room as the storm bore down on the school:
"All of the sudden Mr. Thomas told us to get down on the ground and some girls started crying," she said.
The locker room turned out to be the sturdiest building in the area. The concession stand, where some people sought shelter, was completely ripped apart.
"I had to make a to make a quick decision and thank god it was the right one," said Thomas.
The field will eventually be cleaned up, but the memory of the tornado will be tough to forget.
"It will probably never feel the same to play on this field again," said Vancouver.
The storm did more than just cancel a girls soccer game; it practically obliterated Athens High's Basil Rutter Field, tearing apart stands and the field's press box. The school's football team delayed its game at Chillicothe for a day to give student athletes a day to cope with the devastation left in the tornado's wake, and Athens High's volleyball team returned to the court against Nelsonville-York on Tuesday night after spending the weekend helping clean up wreckage at the high school. The YouTube clip above was taken by Maile Orr, a freshman girls soccer player for Athens High just after the team emerged from its locker-room bunker, and shows the full effects of the devastation at Athens High School.
Now all the Athens football and soccer teams are scrambling to find new sites for the remainder of their schedule. While the logistical problems brought on by the storm are proving a headache, Wayne Breeze, the assistant fire chief of neighboring York Township, said everyone should just be thankful that no one in the storm's path was killed.
"My first thought stopping in and seeing this was that we were going to have multiple fatalities because I just don't see people living through this," Breeze told WSAZ-TV, "but someway somehow, someone was looking over us."
"It's almost impossible to comprehend" local resident Darrin Faires told WSAZ. "The video you see on TV over the last couple of days doesn't do justice to what you see with your own eyes."
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- High School