The recent NSAF National High School Boys and Girls Outdoor Track Championships in Eugene, Oregon produced a period of reflection for Conard track coach Ron Knapp as he considered the past 14 months leading up to the recent outdoor track season.
A cross-country plane ride from Connecticut to Oregon and then back to Connecticut will do that to you.
Despite the impact of the pandemic in different aspects of their lives, the consensus among track athletes in a recent GameTimeCT.com story was that the year-long down time and being confined to remote learning in 2020 was a good thing athletically.
Athletes were more focused and dedicated to using the spare time they had to train and develop a personal routine that kept them fit and ready to compete when the next full season came along. Knapp, who coaches elite athletes like Gavin Sherry and Chloe Scrimgeour, believes high school coaches should take a lesson from the past 14 months when it comes to training and self-preparing for a season.
That self-preparation contributed to a combined 19 post-season CIAC Class and State Open meet records (10 boys records, nine girls records), including a state record set by Sherry in the State Open 1600-meter run in 4 minutes, 1.88 seconds. Many of the records were broken by underclassmen, with dozens of boys and girls who enjoyed post-season success returning next season.
“With time to spare on the plane ride home from Eugene I was able to reflect on the past 12 months of coaching, training and competition in relation to what it means for the future,” Knapp said. “There were many negative impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic on the social, emotional and physical health of my athletes. But they were also overcome by a strong desire to achieve with the limited opportunities that were available throughout the year.
“Certainly there were a range of differences in how each athlete handled their experiences. But on the whole I saw a strong, positive attitude toward training and competition that carried over to their academic successes.”
Knapp said that those athletes who did train and compete over the past 12 months did so with an attitude of taking nothing for granted while trying to make the most of each moment.
“The much less rigorous Indoor track and field season was a blessing in disguise since it allowed a more effective season of training in preparation for the outdoor track and field season,” Knapp said. “The smaller number of invitationals during the conference meet season allowed a gradual progression to attain higher levels of performance in the championship season.
“My hope is that (statewide) coaches and athletes will recognize the lessons learned and use it to their benefit over the next year to garner further achievements while keeping their enjoyment of our sport.”