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Phil, my friend, you're not telling us anything we don't already know. Take a quick look around this campus, and there's no ignoring obvious signs of winter. Locust Walk is flanked by mounds of icy debris; trees are bare; and every head in sight is covered with a hat. The season is nowhere more evident than at Franklin Field. Each of its 52,593 seats are blanketed with snow, and even though its storied track and playing surface are now mostly powder-free, the plows have created a number of towering piles of the frozen stuff. It's the type of setting you might expect to see at a Buffalo Bills playoff game -- not at a women's lacrosse practice. Still, at 3:15 p.m. yesterday, the chilly members of the Penn women's lacrosse team dutifully took to the turf for their second day of outdoor practice. The stiff winds swirling about might have deterred your average postal employee, but the Quakers remained undaunted. "We play most of our season in the cold, so we've got to get used to it," Penn senior goalkeeper Melissa Rantz said. The women's lacrosse team will get its season underway March 4 at the William and Mary Tournament, and their male counterparts will get their 2000 campaign started even sooner in a February 19 scrimmage against Towson. The cold is tough on both squads, but the weather might be most bothersome for Penn's track athletes. Although Penn's track and field program is steeped in history and attracts countless elite athletes each year, the Quakers are the only Ivy League team without an indoor track facility. For the Red and Blue's jumpers, vaulters and throwers, the so-called Bubble, located just north of Rhodes Field next to the Schuylkill Expressway serves their indoor purposes just fine. For the Quakers runners, however, the warmest they'll ever get on a February workout is when they pass over a sultry SEPTA vent. The Penn Athletic Department would love to build an indoor track, but neither the funds nor the property necessary for such a massive undertaking are in place. So until the host of the Penn Relays -- the nation's most popular and revered track meet -- builds an indoor 200-meter facility, the Quakers will be forced to brave the frost. With the sort of weather that we've been having of late, Penn sprinters basically have no chance to practice in earnest, and middle- and long-distance runners suffer from a host of other problems that have them thinking of greener pastures. "Coming from the Southeast, I've never had to train in this kind of weather," said 800 runner Rudy Barthelemy, a native of Columbia, S.C. "Your lungs get dried really quickly, and I always feel like the pace is slower than it is. Plus, training on the roads is tough because all the bridges are frozen over, and there's ice everywhere." At least the Penn tracksters get to stay on dry land, however. The members of the Penn crew teams start their spring season in mid-March, so their warm, dry days on the ergometers are numbered. Many men and women rowers are certainly sick of indoor training by now. The 'erg', an enhanced and smarter version of your run-of-the mill rowing machine, is a notoriously difficult task master. Still, February dawns on the Schuylkill are infinitely more imposing than any hunk of junk. The heavyweight men are scheduled to put their shells into the water on the morning of February 7. Since the frozen Schuylkill is currently better-suited for a double axle than a coxswain right now, it's likely that this date might be pushed back, but the climate will be anything but hospitable no matter when they get in the water. The sort of commitment demonstrated by the Red and Blue rowers and runners is laudable, especially considering just how few of those want-to-keep-in-shape Penn students that jogged everywhere in September are still working out on a regular basis. You see, there's a profound difference between athletes around here and your average matriculant. For most Penn students, the frigid temperatures and icy footing might inconvenience them on their walks to and from class or the library. But they always have a comfortable lecture hall or cozy bed waiting at the other end. For those Penn athletes that can't help but spend hours in the arctic air, winter is not just a temporary inconvenience. It's an enemy. And according to Phil, it'll be an enemy for six more long weeks.

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