Falmouth seniors and track team members Faran Igani and Karley Piers run on a road near the high school earlier this week. Distance runners at the school are training in small groups, but they are unable to compete in interscholastic meets this winter during the coronavirus pandemic. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Many high school track and field seniors are trying to improve their fitness and a develop a glass-is-half-full view of their sport this winter. While they are glad to bond with teammates during workouts, they feel disappointment at losing another competitive season – and worry about losing one more this spring.

Maine’s 2020 high school spring sports season, including outdoor track and field, was canceled shortly after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. This winter, there are no indoor track and field meets. Indoor track is essentially a makeshift practice season, if it can be called a season. 

“I don’t know what to call it,” said Falmouth Coach Jorma Kurry.

The Maine Principals’ Association allows high school track and field teams to train this winter indoors and outside, with athletes and coaches wearing masks inside. But there are no organized competitions. And because college field houses are closed to high schools during the pandemic, teams are not traveling to indoor tracks to practice, as many typically do.

Instead, they must shovel snow off tracks – as York High has done – or create makeshift mini tracks on gym floors with cones, as Gorham is doing. Some teams, like Cheverus, have emphasized circuit training with weights and bounding exercises, similar to workouts given by private trainers.

Gorham High senior Ryan Gendron practices the high jump at Shaw Gym in Gorham on Thursday. The indoor track team would typically practice at the USM field house, but because of the pandemic they started practicing in the gym last week. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Gorham senior Ryan Gendron said none of it is the same as training together in a field house on a rubberized surface where sanctioned meets are held. But he’s grateful to get to high jump now.

“It’s definitely different on a gym floor,” Gendron said. “I think I’m starting to get used to it. I’m finally starting to accept how it is. There is nothing I can do about it. I have to live with that and focus on what this situation has given me – and work with what I’ve got.”

Gendron hopes to compete for an NCAA Division I school. And after finishing second in the high jump at the Class A indoor meet last year – with a personal best of 6 feet, 4 inches – he plans to travel to the Adidas Indoor Nationals on Feb. 26 in Virginia. It would be his only competition this winter – and his first meet in a year.

“I really thought I had a shot at winning the high jump at the state meet last indoors. I was excited for the outdoor season. It’s been tough. It’s hard to stay focused when you don’t know what you’re working toward,” Gendron said.

For those with definite plans to compete in college, a season of practice works all right. Of course, athletes who have been recruited by college coaches already have enjoyed success. 

Falmouth High senior Karley Piers placed third in the two-mile run at the Class A indoor state meet last winter. She will run for Florida Gulf Coast University. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Falmouth senior Karley Piers, who finished third in the two-mile race at the Class A indoor meet last year, said losing last outdoor season and a competitive season this winter is disappointing. But she’s focused on the success she’s already enjoyed, and looks forward to running for Division I Florida Gulf Coast University next year.

Piers runs mostly on the roads now, working on base mileage with fellow distance runners, usually in groups of four. They mask up in the gym, then wear their masks on their arms as they run outside. 

“I feel grateful to have had those opportunities in my high school career,” Piers said. “As a senior, it’s important to keep the underclassmen excited and hopeful for the outdoor season, which is around the corner.”

Zoe Barnes, a senior thrower at Grey-New Gloucester, also hopes to compete in college. But after winning the Class B shot put title last winter with a throw of 37-11 3/4, she missed out on further opportunities to impress college coaches.

“That definitely will be unfortunate if there’s no outdoor state meet,” Barnes said. “I feel like I’ve prepared myself to do well, and then to not have a championships, it will be sad. I’ll just have to tough through it and look forward to college.”

Barnes is grateful to be able to practice with the five other throwers on her team. In the end, the biggest point of stress is the constant uncertainty of what the spring season will look like.

Gray-New Gloucester’s Zoe Barnes, shown competing at the 2019 Class B outdoor state championships, won the Class B shot put at the 2020 indoor meet as a junior but didn’t get to compete at the outdoor state meet last year and doesn’t know if she’ll get a chance this year, either. “That definitely will be unfortunate if there’s no outdoor state meet,” she says. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

“You never know what’s going to happen next,” Barnes said. “One really big thing that is frustrating is my teammates and I were on a roll at practice, and just recently our school had to shut down.”

The MPA has yet to announce its plans for the spring sports season, or whether there might be playoffs and state championships in any sports.

Ideas abound among high school athletes and coaches for what a season-ending meet would look like this spring, from a virtual meet held on home tracks, to a championship meet at one venue, but held over more than one day to reduce the number of people on site at any one time.

“If I were to hope for the best, it would be a state meet, maybe one they could split into two days,” said York senior Cavin McNamara, who has been a part of two state title teams. “I will have run 12 seasons, and all 12 seasons I will have worked as hard as I could. I would like to have one last go to see what I can do and to see what my teammates can do.”

McNamara won’t compete in college, so he hopes for one more competitive season with his teammates, many of whom are his closest friends.

“It’s just been a roller coaster of up and down. There is a cross-country season. Then there’s not. Then there is an indoor season. Then there’s not. It’s really weird. My motivation now is nowhere near where it was when I was a freshman and sophomore,” he said. “Now I don’t know how outdoors will work. It’s very disappointing.”

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