SAN DIEGO -
At least eight runners were hospitalized Saturday after suffering heat exhaustion or heat-related symptoms during a track event at Morley Field in Balboa Park.
The incident was reported at about 11:30 a.m., according to a San Diego Fire-Rescue Department dispatcher. The runners were among 3,000 student runners from several western states taking part in the Mt. Carmel High School Cross Country Invitational.
The races started out as three-mile runs. As the day grew hotter and runners started to collapse, the fire department stepped in.
"We have to tell all our racers the fire department gave us a 16-minute limit due to the heat," said one student with a bullhorn.
Race official Dennis McClanahan told 10News, "We had a certain length that we started with. We shortened it after four races. After eight races, we shortened it again."
Parents were doing what they could to help the teenagers beat the heat, such as pouring water on the runners.
"To cool them down before they start," said one parent.
But even with cool spray from hoses along the way, the heat was too much for some of the young athletes.
"This is the hottest race I've ever run," runner Julie Richardson told 10News. "It was absolutely insane how hot it was out here."
Race official Robert Spangler told 10News, "They're running this cross country event with 95 plus degree weather and we've had to transport eight patients so far due to heat-related emergencies."
Richardson added, "We've had ambulances coming in and out for the past like three hours taking them to the hospital because they're so hot."
All the calls for service led to another issue related to public safety.
"We're down to like two or three ambulances in the entire city right now, so it's kind of putting a strain on the system," said Spangler.
Elsewhere, residents did what they could to keep their cool.
At the Salvation Army Kroc Center in Rolando, the cool came from the pool. Kristin Huston brought her two little girls there.
"I'd love to go in there with them, but I didn't bring my suit," she said.
In Mission Valley, an electronic thermometer read 117 degrees at midday Saturday. El Centro resident Joseph Escobar told 10News it looked like the thermometer belonged in El Centro instead.
"El Centro is very hot, so hot you couldn't even stand outside for more than about a half hour," Escobar told 10News as he stood on Mission Beach.
He and thousands of others beat the heat by heading to the beach. Nicole Wilson drove down from Victorville.
"That's what I'm happy to be here about… the breeze," she said.
When asked what it was like in Victorville, she responded, "It's pretty ridiculous... the air conditioning is on nonstop."
In addition to the runners at Balboa Park, a 45-year-old woman suffered heat exhaustion while hiking near Lake Hodges and had to be airlifted out of the area.
The county has set up more than 100 Cool Zones to offer relief from the heat. Click here (PDF) for a list.
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