The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on Connecticut high school sports and the current indoor track season is no exception.
Heading into the season, CIAC officials determined it would consist of only team practices in January and February and there would only be a limited competitive dual meet season in March, which is currently underway through March 27.
For many of the state’s elite high school track athletes the decision to only hold practices in January and February was a disappointment. For those who had the time and could afford it, they chose another option — competing in out-of-state track meets held at sites like The Armory in New York and as far away as the Virginia Showcase meet.
Hillhouse athletes Leah Moore and her brother Gary Moore Jr., Tess Stapleton of Fairfield Ludlowe and brothers Gavin Sherry and Callum Sherry of Conard are among those who have competed or are planning to compete in an out-of-state experience to improve their development.
“I was disappointed not to be able to compete in Connecticut until March, especially because there are a lot of kids in Connecticut who would have liked to compete in January and February but couldn’t,” said Leah Moore, one of the state’s elite shot put athletes who has committed to Kentucky. “For me, personally, being able to compete out of state has helped keep me in a competitive mind set at all times.
“We have seen some really tough competition outside of Connecticut because of the depth of talent. But there is always very good talent inside Connecticut, too, and it especially gets to be tough in the state meets.”
The CIAC’s abbreviated version of the indoor track season has impacted Gary Moore Jr. as well.
“Early on, I wasn’t able to train consistently as usual because if the weather outside was too bad, I missed days of training becsuse we weren’t able to go inside,” Gary Moore Jr. said. “Being able to compete out of state has been a blessing because it allows me to still continue to improve on my marks. Without those opportunities I would only have my numbers from sophomore year to show recruiters, which is no where close to where I am now.
“Traveling aaround the country more than usual has allowed me to compete against the best of the best, pushing me to throw further distances. Overall, competing out of state has been a positive experience, giving me the chance to show my improvement to the world. I have thrown personal bests in all of my events, which wouldn’t have happened without these opportunities.”
Stapleton, who excels in the hurdles and long jump and has committed to Stanford, has also been disappointed with the Connecticut season.
“I am grateful for the opportunities I have received to compete at meets out of state, but it definitely comes with challenges that inhibit the amount I can compete,” Stapleton said. “In November, I was lucky to be able to attend four meets at The Armory in New York. But after that shut down (it is being used as a vaccination center) the main meets happening have been in Virginia, Ohio, and Chicago.
“I haven’t been able to attend a lot of those meets since they are long trips from home. I am used to competing every single weekend for around three months (normal Connecticut season). So only having competed a handful of times has definitely presented its challenges for my training, as well as the times and distances I am putting out.”
With no indoor meets available in the Northeast, Gary Moore Jr., Leah Moore and Stapleton said there has been a certain amount of stress in traveling to out of state to meets and not being able to compete at home. While the out-of-state experience has been positive when it comes to development, there is some level of stress to perform well when it comes to their family and coaches to make that long travel worthwhile.
“Without a doubt these meets have been a very different experience,” Fairfield Ludlowe coach Justin Tomczyk said. “But competition always has benefit, especially for an athlete preparing for a collegiate D-I track career at Stanford. Given that the meets were managed with safety, and COVID-19 protocols in mind, they were absolutely a quality alternative to not competing.
“With Tess heading off to Stanford next Fall it was important for her to continue to be able to gain competition opportunity and experience. A meet like the Virginia Showcase is a “big stage” and that’s the kind of exposure you need to offer to a high caliber athlete.”
Tomczyk said the high-level of competition was there at the out-of-state meets. But there is no replacing the benefit of competing in weekly meets at home.
“A normal Connecticut indoor track and field season has weekly meets, a variety of invitational options, and a clear practice and training routine,” Tomczyk said. “You can’t replace that. Most importantly, I’ve been absolutely amazed at the work ethic of athletes like Tess. To have found a way to stay motivated, to train safely during the pandemic, and to still maintain that competitive fire. That’s incredible and it says a lot about character.”
Gavin Sherry, Callum Sherry and teammate Tyler Remigino, who are also cross country standouts, have been training to compete at the NSAF Meet of Champions at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina at the end of March.
“With the very limited scope of indoor track and field in Connecticut, athletes were left to their own devices to compete in meets outside of Connecticut that fits within their personal safety guidelines and academic schedules,” said Conard coach Ron Knapp, who added practices were limited or moved to neighboring streets in February when the outdoor track was covered with snow.
“With those premises in mind, our top three distance runners (Remigino and Sherry brothers) are on a training program for competition at the NSAF Meet of Champions.”
Gavin Sherry set the state record at the CIAC State Open when he won the 3200 in 8:54.47 last year.
Leah Moore said the out of state competition has been a positive experience.
“It has been a great experience for me to always be going against the best in the country almost every week at the places we travel to,” Leah Moore said. “I always feel the energy of high-level competition, which is good to prepare me for the future when I am in college.”