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Beating the heat by staying active

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By Jonathan Stark

Tennis lessons - With the high temperatures and humidity, many are staying in the cool air-conditioning of their homes and hoping the heat wave moves through the area as soon as possible.

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But not everyone is sacrificing their active lifestyles for comfort. Vandalia's parks and fitness areas are still peppered with a handful of people taking advantage of the vacant tennis courts and fairways.
Vandalia Junior High School teacher and Lady Vandals assistant basketball coach Dana Kirk can be found on the high school tennis courts, giving lessons early in the morning.
"I teach tennis lessons for an hour a day throughout the week," Kirk said. "We both (Kirk and her students) get to get outside, and I still enjoy playing. It's for practice and fun at the same time."
Kirk was working with VCHS sophomore Emilie Britt on Monday morning. Britt is a member of the Lady Vandals tennis team.
The two have been working together for four weeks, and Kirk said Britt is showing improvement.
"We've been playing from 8:30-9:30 in the morning, so it's still pretty cool," Kirk said. "There's usually nobody out here, so we have a free rein to the park."
Kirk also works with a number of other students throughout the week.
"I really like it," Britt said. "It's helped me a lot for this season. I haven't played since the season ended, so it helps a lot just to get out here and play before it starts again."

Color guard and band

Vandalia High School marching band and color guard may not fall into the sport category, but the two groups are still working just as hard as any other athletes out in the scorching weather.
The color guard found refuge in the shadow of the gymnasium on Monday morning as members learned their moves.
Eight color guard members practiced their routine, led by coaches Kendra Houghtaling and her father, Duane.
The group has had only two practices thus far, but Dwayne Houghtaling said the girls are doing very well picking up the moves and that their great attitudes are helping as well.
The heat didn't seem to be bothering them too much in the shadows and early mornings, but later this week, the color guard begins practicing with the marching band, and there won't be enough shade for everyone.
The marching band was on the football field Tuesday morning with no shade within 100 yards of the field, but that didn't stop the 60 or more students from learning the steps.
The band is led by VCHS band director Tony Hicks.

Teeing off

One of the more populated, yet still relatively sparse areas around town is Vandalia County Club.
On Monday afternoon, there were two or three groups on the links, with some single players, as well.
The temperature was topping out at 87 degrees, and players were breaking a sweat just walking from the cart to the tee box.
Charlie Watson was walking the course by himself , something he does three or four times a week.
"If I didn't walk the course, I'd weigh 300 pounds," Watson joked.
Watson is cautious of the high temperature while out on the course alone. He said he goes through three or four water bottles while playing nine to 18 holes.
He said the heat has kept some players off the course, but there is still a good number early in the morning, trying to squeeze in a round before it gets too hot.
Ramsey High School teacher and baseball coach Mark Rinehart was on the course with his wife, LeAnna. Rinehart was taking advantage of his time off, with school and fall baseball season starting up later this month. They also came ready for the heat, pointing out several containers of water.
Rinehart joked that he and his wife weren't very good and need as much open course as they could get, so they were happy to have a relatively people-free outing.
The youngest and perhaps most stylish group on the course was a foursome of Vandalia High School students. Tim Ritchey, Luke Smith, Zack Jackson and Daniel Bell were on the course in white Polos and neckties. The group even had its own caddy, Thomas Ritchey.
"If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good," Tim Ritchey said of the group's attire, echoing a famous Deion Sanders quote.
The group may have looked good, but they weren't playing too good in their first outing on a real golf course following several trips to mini-golf.
The busiest part of the county club was the swimming pool, where more than two dozen youths splashed around in the cool water.

Preseason conditioning

Practice for all fall sports can't begin until next Wednesday (Aug. 11), but that hasn't kept a good number of area athletes from starting to get in playing shape.
Monday night, after the sun had gone down and the temperature finally dropped below 80 degrees, a group of Vandalia athletes that will most likely be playing football this fall met at the VCHS football field and started a conditioning regimen.  
It mostly consisted of running sprints, but just being outside served as a way to acclimate the athletes' bodies to the high temperatures that they will face all month and well into September.
Even with practice starting on Wednesday, the football team won't be in full gear for a another week.
The conditioning was led by current and former players, and several former players who will be playing college football also participated.