LINK TO THEGAZETTE.COM REPORT ON THE ACCIDENT … HERE
CEDAR RAPIDS — The day after Washington High School student Patrick Reirden was hit by a car during cross country practice, his coach and teammates returned to the scene of the accident.
“We stood at the intersection (of Cottage Grove Drive and Eastern Boulevard SE), and we watched the cars go by for a couple minutes,” Coach Will Harte said. “They might as well have been driving on Interstate 380, they were moving so fast.
“It was good for the kids to see. It made them realize that you’ve got to run defensively. When you let your guard down is when accidents happen.”
Another one happened Monday, when South Tama Middle School eighth-grader Ian McFate was struck while running on a trail that crosses a Tama County road. McFate died from his injuries Tuesday afternoon.
Iowa High School Athletic Association official David Anderson said he was unaware of any car-pedestrian accidents involving cross country runners other than the two this fall.
Area coaches agree that running on streets or roads is virtually unavoidable.
“We’re on streets and gravel quite a bit,” said Benton Community Coach Marty Thomae. “We’re always reminding them to use common sense. But kids are kids, and you can’t be with all of them all the time. It’s impossible.”
Nathan Hopp is the boys’ coach at Cedar Rapids Xavier and one of the best distance runners in Eastern Iowa. He has never had a seriously close call with a car.
“Like I tell our kids, it’s better to be patient and safe,” Hopp said. “Kids have a chip on their shoulder and think they’re (indestructable). Me, I’m 170-180 pounds, and if I’m going up against a car, I’m not going to win that battle.”
Harte pointed out five traffic safety rules that he drills into his team:
* Run against the flow of traffic.
* Wear reflective gear if running at night.
* Take advantage of all sidewalks, when available.
* Run no more than two abreast.
* Assume cars can’t see you.
“You just can’t assume that the drivers know you’re there,” Thomae said. “They might have the sun their eyes. They might be fiddling with the radio. There are just so many variables.
“We’ve been lucky (at Benton) because we have people in our community that know that, from August through October, we’re going to be on the streets and the roads.”
Harte reported Tuesday that Reirden — who suffered a concussion and a badly bruised arm in his Sept. 18 collision — has returned to practice.
Before each practice, Harte meets with his team. After he discusses the workout ahead, he sends the runners on the way — with the same closing sentence.
It’s a command, a plea, maybe a prayer:
“Let’s be careful out there.”