CHESHIRE — Ryan Farrell, an elite middle distance runner for the Cheshire track team, had a tough decision to make heading into the winter indoor season that would likely have an impact on the current outdoor season.
As December came to a close, due to COVID-19 restrictions and protocols still in place, the CIAC opted for a limited indoor season. The season would consist of only team practices in January and February and a three-week league-only competitive dual meet conclusion to the season in March.
At the time, Farrell and Cheshire outdoor track coach Allen Dvarskas said it was unclear what the SCC indoor dual meets would look like or if they would happen at all. Farrell decided not to compete for the Rams, instead focusing on personal training and more competitive out-of-state meets.
“I was so eager for the cross country season to start because due to COVID-19 we had no (2020) outdoor season,” Farrell said. “After cross country there was uncertainty with the upcoming indoor season. When it was decided there would only be practices in January and February and a limited dual meet season in March, I had to think what was best for me to continue to develop and stay fit.
“After speaking with (Cheshire indoor) coach Pam Gunneson, I decided to train on my own and there were three highly competitive out-of-state meets I could go to and compete. It was a very hard decision to leave the team, but I think I made the right decision.”
He competed at the East Coast Invitational on Feb. 6 at the Virginia Beach Sports Complex, where he finished in 52.42 in the 400, placing him in the top 15.
On Feb. 27 at the Adidas National Meet at the Virginia Beach Sports Complex there was a better result with a win in the 800 (1:57.68).
At the Meet of Champions in March in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Farrell was second in the Championship Division 800 in 1:55.92 and in the Emerging Elite Division 400 he was third in 50.59.
“Heading into the indoor season, there really was a lot of uncertainty how it would look and if there would even be a season,” Dvarskas said.
“The outdoor season was very important and we knew there would be a more normal feel to it with the potential for fewer restrictions since it was outdoors. Ryan felt it would be effective to leave the team and work on his own to gear up for the outdoor season.
“In his head it would allow him the best opportunity to maintain that elite edge and he would be able to compete against national competition. We supported the decision.”
A turning point for Farrell came during the 2019-2020 indoor post season, the last “normal” full track season in the state. At the State Open he was a surprise winner in the 600, winning in a school record 1:23.54 and he was ecstatic after the victory.
“That win was huge for me,” Farrell said. “There was affirmation, knowing I was finally able to be placed in the same category as the best runners in the state, the elite runners. It was also a turning point, knowing that all the hard work and effort I put into the sport paid off and at that point I knew it would continue to pay off.”
Dvarskas said Farrell has the talent to compete at any distance from the 200 to the 3200. In the first four meets of the outdoor season, while he admits he hasn’t produced any elite times yet, Farrell is unbeaten.
He has won the 800 twice, the 400 twice, the 1600 twice, the 3200 twice and ran legs of the 4×400 and 4×800 relays. Farrell has also committed to run track at the University of Louisville.
“Alyson Caron first recognized Ryan’s potential and worked with him to reach that potential,” Dvarskas said. Caron was the previous outdoor track coach who moved to Rhode Island last year to get married.
“Ryan has natural physical ability, a strong work ethic and is very coachable, which will help his transition to the college level. But his main strength lies in his mentality, his ability to visualize and study his competition and set meaningful task points. He’s also head strong, but in a good way, making him a fierce competitor.”
While competing out-of-state helped prepare Farrell for the outdoor season, during the past year he also connected with private track coach Robert Berry who is based in Colorado. He owns and is general manager of the Colorado Track Club. They communicated using Zoom vitrtual meetings, texts and emails.
“During quarantine (when everything was shut down), I was doing 300 pushups and 100 pullups a day to stay fit,” Farrell said.
“But I needed to do more. With coach Berry, we put together a six-day training base using aerobic workouts, training runs and weightlifting three times a week. It has helped a lot.”
The goal for Farrell is to break the 800 school record, which is 1:53 “and some change” Farrell said.
“I want to go 1:51 or 1:52 in the 800,” Farrell said. “I want to help as many of my teammates as I can to qualify for the state meets. That is my focus now. I’m also looking forward to going to Louisville. I made a visit and I fell in love with the campus and the track program. The coaches are fantastic.”