Maintenance crew stays busy during rough spring weather

A spring with winter-like weather has caused multiple cancellations for Conant sports, especially for baseball, softball, and tennis.

Despite the rough conditions, the outdoor sports teams at Conant make an effort to play whenever it is feasible. Three maintenance staff employees primarily work on the outdoor athletic facilities: groundsman Keith Strachn, swingman Zach Hamblen, and equipment manager Ken Gaughan.

One of the challenges the crew has faced this spring has to do with the weather. “The rain has not been that friendly to us. It seems like every day there is a baseball game, it wants to rain. So, we just got to put in a little extra work into the fields to make sure they’re playable,” Strachn said. He added that they try to pre-plan for the next day to make sure the fields are ready.

According to Gaughan, the crew works for eight hours a day trying to get the athletic facilities ready, bringing in additional staff from maintenance if they need more assistance.

“We don’t measure [our work] in who does what. We work together to get one thing done at a time. We may start with baseball and then to softball and then to the tennis courts and then to the discus and track,” Gaughan said.

According to Gaughan, the utmost concern for the crew is safety. To ensure this, they make sure there are no obstacles on the field and that equipment, such as soccer goals, are secured to the point where they will not tip over.

Another concern for the crew is the difference between getting the fields ready for practice compared to a game. For practice, the crew makes sure that each team has somewhere safe to go outside to practice. However, when they are preparing for a game, the field must be set according to IHSA regulations, according to Gaughan. This includes having the appropriate markings on the field as well as having the correct parameters, which the crew is responsible for taking care of.

Buildings and Grounds Manager Andrew Woods said, “They all definitely put in the time and effort. They come in every day. They do their job. They do it for the students. They want to make sure everyone plays when they’re supposed to play.”

Athletic Director John Kane also had praise for the crew since they’ve been able to get in games when other schools couldn’t. He noted that in one instance, a team had to come play at Conant when their field wasn’t playable.

The crew said that once the weather becomes more spring and summer-like, their job turns into a summer maintenance function. Hamblen added that their job is easier once the weather is warmer, when they begin grass, trimming bushes, removing weeds, and installing fertilizer into the soil.

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