With college facilities unavailable for use during the pandemic, the high school indoor track and field season will likely be for training only. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Track and field athletes lost their outdoor season in the spring. As the coronavirus pandemic has continued, they’re looking at their winter indoor season being vastly different as well.

As colleges have closed and limited access to their facilities in an effort to eliminate the spread of COVID-19, the competitive side of indoor track and field has been dealt a crippling blow. Teams normally rely on places like Colby College and Bowdoin College to host their meets, and with those options unavailable, there are few, if any, venues capable of hosting full events.

“Basketball’s a little bit easier, because it’s played inside each school’s own facility, so they have their own kinds of rules and regulations,” Winslow coach Ken Nadeau said. “Track’s kind of at the mercy of these big colleges. And it’s not their fault. They have to protect their student body and their money and their facilities themselves.”

Instead, the focus this season is on in-house work — training and intra-squad competitions, with the idea of making the team fully prepared for what is hopefully a return to competition in the spring.

“We’re not training for competition, currently,” Nadeau said. “Basically, we’re looking at six weeks of training. We’ll be done by February break, hoping there will be some sort of (outdoor) schedule in March. … I don’t foresee us getting into an inside facility at all.”

“We’re using this indoor season as a springboard for outdoor, so we can really come out and put our best foot forward,” Cony coach Kevin Russell said. “We’re training like there are going to be meets, but what we’re looking forward to is an outdoor season.”

Some coaches are viewing the circumstances as a positive. Matt Holman, who coaches Messalonskee’s indoor and outdoor teams, said a focus on training this season can help with his athletes’ development.

“I don’t believe there are going to be track meets. I think that’s already been decided. So for us, we’re really taking a look at our skill base and really working to get back to the primary skills required to run fast,” he said. “It gives us kind of a neat opportunity to slow everything down and teach the basics to athletes. We don’t generally get the time in order to do so. … (Normally) you’re spread pretty thin, and working on basics can be challenging at times.”

Holman said a diminished competitive season has been difficult for athletes who are eager for meets after losing the spring season.

“The athletes that we have, they’re great. They’re understanding,” he said. “The only tough thing is keeping them motivated without competition. (That) can be a challenge.”

The door on competition isn’t slammed shut completely. There have discussions about virtual meets, and some schools have come up with ideas for specialized competitions — Skowhegan, Nadeau said, has floated the idea of a throwers’ meet.

With each idea, however, there are challenges.

With college facilities unavailable for use during the pandemic, the high school indoor track and field season will likely be for training only. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

“Even then, I feel like it’s going to be hit or miss,” Nadeau said. “It’s just so spotty. … COVID strikes whenever it strikes. Logistically, trying to plan to do some of this stuff is just really, really difficult.”

In normal seasons, teams usually get one day in the week that they spend at one of the indoor track facilities. This season, however, is about using the space they can find. Throwers throw shot puts in the gym or weight room. Sprinters run in the gyms or hallways. Distance runners get their miles in outside.

“We’re kind of in that focus right now of full-body, cross-fit, heavy cardio training,” Nadeau said. “We run our hallways like we’ve always done. We’re creative, doing whatever we can to get our kids’ heart rates up.”

“No doubt, we have to change the way we practice,” Russell said. “A lot of times we’re outside. We do use a track to practice on, we’re on the roads more around the school. … The distancing is kind of hard, especially with some of the technical events where you have to be a little bit closer to the athlete.”

Even with the space that they have, though, teams are hoping to have intra-squad competitions so that their athletes have a way of measuring themselves against others.

“You still want them to feel the season was worth something,” Russell said. “So we’ll have them do competition, so they’ll have bragging rights on the team.”

Holman said that competition is what the athletes sign up for, even if it ends up coming a season later than they were hoping for.

“It’s not ideal. We love competitions, they’re a great, measurable chance for all of our kids to see progress,” he said. “It’s challenging to continue to push yourself to the limits if you don’t have that competition feedback. … The advantage we’re trying to take from this is slowing everything down, teaching the fundamentals, and hoping that because of this, our outdoor season will be even better.”


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