The Clovis Crossfire club soccer team arrived safely back in the Central Valley this past weekend after several members of the team were stranded in hotels amid a record-breaking snowstorm in Texas.
The Crossfire competed in the GA National Showcase in Round Rock, Texas from Feb. 12 – 14, where both the ‘02/03 and ‘04 division teams (based on birth year) played in freezing conditions.
Erik Farfan, head coach of the ‘04 team, did not travel to Texas, but warned his team of the forecasted weather before the showcase.
“I sent a team text to the girls saying to pack some extra warm stuff,” Farfan said. “Lo and behold, I didn’t think it would be to the extent that it ended up being.”
Playing on that Friday and Saturday, Crossfire battled two opponents: the one on the field and the elements.
“It was hard to warm up, because how do you warm up when it’s 20 degrees outside?,” said Crossfire player Bella Cruz.
The majority of the ‘02/03 team and a few members of the ‘04 team left Texas as soon as word came out on Feb. 13 that their final matches were canceled due to weather – yet at least 10 players’ families, as well as two coaches, were stuck in Texas hotels until the following Wednesday.
“This will be an experience none of these families and players will ever forget,” said ‘02/03 Crossfire head coach John Clarke.
Leaving the snowstorm proved to be an endeavor for Clarke, assistant coach Erik Hernandez and the remaining girls on the team. Hernandez flew out of Texas on Saturday, but the plane’s turbulence while navigating the storm led to an unenjoyable flying experience.
“I was sound asleep and all of sudden we hit that turbulence. I woke up and I was scared because I thought we’re crashing,” Hernandez said. “You should’ve seen me. I held on to the seat in front of me.”
It took a while for Crossfire player Kaydence Garcia to fly out of Texas as well. She missed a flight out of San Antonio, and her second flight took longer than normal to reach California due to challenging travel conditions.
Cruz was stuck in Denver after her connecting flight was canceled due to snow on the tarmac. The airline supplied Cruz and her family with food vouchers and a hotel room for the night.
“It was almost the same as Texas. Everyone wanted food. Everyone was hungry. There were people who wanted a room. Everyone was kind of going crazy because they had missed their flight,” Cruz said.
Whether it was through the air or on the road, transportation was nearly impossible in the Texas winter storm. That didn’t stop David Wheeler from driving his daughter Alyssa and seven others from Round Rock to Houston, where the last available flight was located.
“It was very icy and it was a three hour drive but it took like five hours,” said Mia Mirelez, a passenger on the ride. “We passed at least five car accidents on the way there.”
Almost everyone in the van to Houston made the last flight leaving on Feb. 14.
Everyone except Rylie Chaney and her family.
Chaney’s flight on Sunday was canceled, as well as her makeup flight on Monday. Chaney and her mother stayed at a Houston hotel Sunday evening when the power in their room went out overnight.
The hotel lobby still had power, allowing Chaney to charge her phone and finish her schoolwork there until about 2:30 Monday afternoon when the entire hotel’s power shut off.
“We kind of were freaking out, because we didn’t know what to do,” Chaney said. “There was another hotel in the same parking lot complex so we walked over there to charge our phones. I remember that night, my mom and I slept in a million layers because it was freezing cold in the hotel.”
To complicate matters further, Farfan struggled to make contact with Chaney or her mother during the week, as both had their phones turned off to preserve their battery.
“I called a couple times and [Chaney’s] mom’s phone went directly to voicemail and then Rylie’s did too,” Farfan said. “I was like, ‘Oh gosh I just wish they would answer.’”
Chaney and her mother left Houston on Wednesday. Once they arrived in Los Angeles, their first stop was In-N-Out. It had been days since their last hot meal.
“We know we were thinking about them here at home,” Farfan said. “I was in particular, and I’m just thankful that everybody was safe.”