Runner passes out at race

Enloe High teen in critical condition

Staff WriterAugust 26, 2007 

— An Enloe High School cross-country runner collapsed during a three-mile race last week, raising questions about whether sports teams should practice and compete in the extreme heat.

Stuart Jones, the runner, was in critical condition Saturday evening at WakeMed-Raleigh Campus.

The teen was rushed to the hospital Wednesday evening after collapsing in the middle of a race against Sanderson High School.

"As far as I know it was heat-related," said Bob Catapano, the Sanderson athletics director. "But we're still trying to assemble all of the details of exactly what happened."

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, when the temperature was 93 degrees and the heat index made it feel like 98 degrees, the Enloe and Sanderson cross country teams walked the course before the race.

The women started their race at 5 p.m. when it was 92 degrees, and the men set out about 40 minutes later, according to Catapano, when it was still 92 degrees out.

The runners start around Sanderson's school track and then go through Optimist Park before returning to the track.

Jones, according to school officials, was seen at the two-mile mark of the race, and no one noticed any problems.

When he did not show up at the finish line 30 minutes after the start of the race, coaches worried. "They should have been done in half an hour," said Michael Evans, a spokesman for the Wake County school system.

At some point between the two-mile mark and finish line, Jones veered off the course, according to school officials, and stumbled into the yard of a nurse. Emergency dispatchers were called and the nurse, according to school officials, iced down the teen.

School officials said they had not received a medical diagnosis and were not sure Saturday why the runner collapsed. Evans said the meet was held within North Carolina High School Athletic Association guidelines.

Enloe's athletics director, Tommy Moore, referred questions about the incident to school Principal Beth Cochran. She could not be reached for comment Saturday.

More caution urged

But Fred Mueller, a professor of exercise and sports science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, wonders whether schools push too hard in heat waves.

In the past 10 days, Mueller said, three high school football players have died in the South; two of the incidents were known to be heat-related and the third, where no autopsy was conducted, was thought to be.

Mueller, who tracks such statistics from year to year, would prefer that high school athletics officials postpone games, meets or seasons to avoid such risks.

"You have to be sensible about these things," Mueller said.

Charlie Adams, director of the N.C. High School Athletic Association, said he could not remember a time in his 40 years on the job when there has been such a protracted heat wave.

"You kind of hope this is not the rule," Adams said, "that it's going to be one of those summers where we'll look back and say we haven't had anything like that again."

Adams knew of only two other heat-related incidents across the state. A tennis player withered on a hot court, he said, but was cooled down quickly. A soccer player was taken to a hospital and later released.

"It's just been one of those years that you're on pins and needles," Adams said.

Catapano said he had not gathered enough facts about the Enloe incident to know whether schools should change policies.

High school cross country runners competed Saturday morning at an event at SAS soccer park.

"What we're trying to do right now," Catapano said, "is find out what happened in order to assess what we might do differently."

Staff writer Anne Blythe can be reached at 932-8741 or anne.blythe@newsobserver.com.

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