AKRON, Ohio — Cross country runners can face many challenges on a course, including hills, mud, hot weather and cold temps. Usually, nothing stops them from crossing the finish line.
But in Akron, a high school race had to be stopped because of an insect swarm attacking the runners.
Goodyear Heights Metro Park is known as a training ground for runners and for its challenging hill, but no one saw another challenge coming Tuesday afternoon during a City League meet: wasps.
As she does each week, Laurie Schueler took pictures of the race. Her daughters, Jane and Sarah, run for Firestone High School.
As the 5K continued over portions of the 410-acre park, several runners began experiencing a stinging sensation. Jane was among them.
"I felt something on my legs," she said. "It feels like someone is giving me a shot."
It turned out Jane was stung three times near her ankles by paper wasps.
Several other runners were also stung, causing enough alarm that officials stopped the race.
"They started coming up this way and they're all kind of looking at their legs and their feet and telling us they got stung," Laurie Schueler said. "It was kind of panic-inducing really and we just wanted to make sure everybody was OK."
Claire Merrick, manager of marketing and public relations for Summit County Metro Parks, doesn't believe any of the runners suffered any serious allergic reactions.
"Nobody was transported. There were no life-threatening emergencies or anything like that," Merrick said.
Park crews sprayed the nest twice and put up signage to be careful in the area. The nest will be destroyed on Thursday, Merrick said.
"We are a natural resource and wildlife is welcome in all of our parks, and so, sometimes this happens. We're just happy that our crews were able to come in and handle the situation immediately," Merrick said. "We just encourage everybody to be aware and we encourage everybody to notify us if they notice anything like this."
Tony Lee with Epcon Lane Pest Control said wasps are more active this time of year, especially if their nests are disturbed.
"Late summer and early fall, they're starting to forage for food because they know that winter is coming. The colder weather is coming, so this time of year, they tend to be a little more aggressive," Lee said.
Lee said what happened at the Metro Park also underscores the importance of having an EpiPen on hand in the event of a wasp or hornet sting.
"If you're allergic, it could definitely be very dangerous," he said.
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