By Mike Smith
And the Spring Track Champion is….
As the intended first day of track has been pushed off until April 13th (maybe later), it would be easy to speculate about the extent of the 2020 spring season. As a coach, track official and a member of the spring track committee I can attest there is a lot of concern and confusion on whether or not we’ll return to a spring track season, and if we do, what it will look like. It’s safe to say this is not what any of us in the sport was looking for.
Also as a fan of the sport, I had been looking forward to the NCAA indoor championships. A fan of NAU I wanted to see how the boys who came out to run fast at BU in late January would fare out in Albuquerque. I was almost in as much shock as they were when I found out that the championships were canceled. I had the luxury of being in my home, reading it on the internet. They, and every other athlete qualified for nationals, found out at the track in the Albuquerque Convention Center while prepping for the meet to begin. To later learn that the spring season was canceled as well, must have been heartbreaking.
Regardless of what we want, this is the hand we have been currently dealt. While the entire season hangs in limbo, your preparation for the season should not.
We can begrudge the fact that practice won’t begin on Monday. I know I do, recognizing the training schedule I built to peak my athletes when it matters most is rendered useless. I can’t really plan for when the season resumes as that date remains extremely fluid.
But fortunately for my athletes, they can get out there and get their training in. The weather for training has been pretty good all winter. The CDC suggests regular daily exercise outside as a deterrent to contracting the coronavirus. Running with your regular training partners, while practicing social distancing, falls within these recommendations (no more than 10!). Heck with flexible hours for schooling, athletes can choose to train during the best stretches of weather each day and put their harder workouts in places where the conditions fit best.
But what if the entire season gets canceled? All that training will be for nothing.
Training is never for nothing. While it might not pay out this spring, training is a method of taking a step forward toward your future goals. I often tell my cross country kids who do not like the repetitiveness of the track that by improving their mile time is the best way to improve their cross country times. I’m not sure the exact translation but let’s face it, running sub 5 in the mile makes running sub 17 minutes in the 5K a lot easier.
On top of that, there is a new opportunity to sculpt this spring in the way that you would like it. Without the confines that training daily in a specific way determined by the coach with team goals in mind, you have the autonomy to go out there and get after it. Create a challenge for yourself that you wouldn’t if you had regular practice. Do hills until you puke (unless your coach already made you do that!), go on an exploratory run to a place you haven’t run before. With the extra time you might have, you can travel to somewhere else to run on roads or trails you couldn’t if you had to fit it in with practice.
I’ll admit this spring isn’t what anyone would want. I mean our schedule has us coming back to our first meet being the Black Bear Invitational. Considering we won’t have run any meets by then, we’ll have no qualifying times. Not only that, being a D3 school that culturally doesn’t invest in track, many of our kids wouldn’t normally qualify for Black Bear anyway. Next up will be our home meet, on our beloved dirt track. Like I said, not the way I would like spring track to start.
But we have it good compared to other spring sports. Softball, baseball and volleyball are basically at a stand still, relegated to doing nothing until April 13th. With the CDC suggesting gatherings of less than 10 people, those teams can’t even work out together. COVID 19 plays a significant role in disrupting their seasons. For us, the roads and trails are open. We can get out, get a run or a workout in, and advance our fitness.
And that’s a very good thing.