An unprecedented winter storm has stranded multiple members of the Clovis Crossfire club soccer team in Texas. Now they have hunkered down in snow-covered hotels while facing dangerous travel conditions and food shortages.
The ‘02/03 and ‘04 Crossfire teams traveled to Round Rock, Texas to compete in the GA National Showcase, which was intended to run from Friday, Feb.12 until Monday, Feb. 15. Organizers already told teams prior to the tournament’s start that Monday’s games were canceled in anticipation of the storm.
But when the state’s coldest winter storm in decades struck, the tournament was cut short Sunday afternoon. Many of the players’ families subsequently had their flights out of Texas canceled and pushed back later into the week.
As of now, eight Clovis families and two coaches — scattered between Round Rock and Austin — await their rescheduled flights home, expected for Thursday through Saturday.
One family drove to San Antonio to board a flight Wednesday evening. Another traveled to Houston on Sunday before their flight was canceled, forcing them to stay in Houston for three more days until they flew home Wednesday.
‘02/03 Crossfire head coach John Clarke and four families are staying at a Red Rock Hilton, while ‘04 Crossfire assistant coach Erik Hernandez and three families moved to separate Austin hotels closer to the airport. Another family left Austin for a different hotel in a nearby Texas town.
Despite the teams spread out across the Lone Star State, the coaches remain in constant communication to assure parents and players that their dilemma will only last a few more days.
“From what I gather, [the players] are holding up pretty well,” Hernandez said. “There hasn’t been much complaining. The only complaints I’ve heard is them trying to get some supplies whether it be water or warm food.”
Both coaches have worked tirelessly with parents to provide necessary supplies for players. For Clarke, that included a three-hour wait for pizza Monday night at the only open pizzeria in Red Rock.
Before Clarke and the parents left the hotel to search for food, they chipped off a quarter inch of ice atop their car.
“I’ve never seen anything like this. Even the people we’ve talked to here said in the last 37 or 38 years, they have never seen anything like this in Texas,” Clarke said.
Red Rock was frigid during Crossfire’s matches over the weekend. ‘02/03 Crossfire played Friday in 27 degree temperatures, followed by a Saturday game that featured a wind chill of six degrees.
The ‘02/03 team did not play Sunday, which allowed most of the team’s families to leave Saturday evening.
David Wheeler, a manager on the ‘02/03 team, had a scheduled flight for Sunday evening at 5:00 p.m. He learned Sunday morning that it was canceled and rebooked for Thursday, the earliest available date out of Austin.
But when he learned from a dentist friend that flights were still available out of Houston, Wheeler rented a van with eight other people and drove 167 miles from Round Rock to Houston in icy conditions.
“It was the craziest conditions I’ve ever been a part of,” Wheeler said. “We were going 10 miles an hour and we watched, at one point, 10 to 12 cars sliding into each other. Had we stopped, we would’ve slid into it as well.”
Wheeler and his party reached Houston and — except for one family — boarded the last flight out of Bush Intercontinental Airport, headed for Sacramento.
Back in Clovis, Wheeler hopes that he’s soon joined by the rest of ‘02/03 and the remaining ‘04 players.
“We’re sitting here praying for them and hoping for their return as quickly as possible,” Wheeler said. “We’ve been in constant communication with all the families still there.”
Eric Anderson, another manager on the ‘02/03 team, did not make the trip to Texas, but adds to the support of the families stuck in Texas.
“I can’t imagine what’s going through some of their minds right now, being there with no food and some of them worrying about power going in and out,” Anderson said. “We just need to get them home safely as soon as possible so they can get back to their lives.”
The ‘04 team played a game on Saturday and another on Sunday. Referees shortened the second game to two 30-minute halves because of the worsening weather.
Sunday’s game started at about 22 degrees, but by the end of the match, it was sleeting and the temperature dropped to near single digits.
“The sleet was coming across the field and it became unplayable right as the game finished,” Clarke said. “We jumped straight into the cars and threw on sweatpants as soon the game was over.”
Clarke realized Monday morning that his remaining team was stuck in Texas when he saw the winter storm was not forecasted to ease up until Thursday evening at the earliest.
During this week, the Red Rock Hilton has not added extra charges for the team’s extended stay, and Girls Academy helped stranded teams like Crossfire by starting a food chain to address the shortage.
Clovis Crossfire has competed in numerous out-of-state GA events this past year, including a recent showcase in Utah. With no youth soccer allowed in California, it’s the only taste of competition for the club.
“My mom asked me and I said I wouldn’t have changed anything,” Hernandez said. “We would’ve still come to Texas regardless if we knew the outcome of how this was gonna turn out.”