Rockets eager to return to track Tuesday


photo courtesy of Shawn Schuster

Graduate Cameron Kamlowsky awaits the handoff from senior Donny Washington in a relay run during the 2019 season.

After COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 track season, coaches and athletes are excited to be able to compete this spring and look forward to accomplishing the goals they were unable to last year.

“I am excited for the amount of youth that we have, and some of the new faces. I think they are going to bring a lot to the team,” said Head Coach Robb Kidd. “And at the same time, I think we have some very good veteran runners here, whose experience will help put these guys in the right direction.”

One of those veteran runners, school record holder Erika Richards, said she is ready for her senior season. 

“I am looking forward to just enjoying my last high school track season and making the most of it,” said Richards, who competes in hurdles and relay events. “I am also excited to compete again since we didn’t have a season last year.” 

Senior Ethan Schuster, who recently finished second in the 400m at the OATCCC D2/3 Indoor Track & Field Finale meet at Spire Institute, has also set goals for outdoor track he would like to achieve in his final year of high school.

I’m looking forward to possibly breaking the school record for the 400m dash as well as beating my own personal records,” Schuster said. 

Senior Ethan Schuster competes in an event in 2019. (photo courtesy of Shawn Schuster)

Due to the disappointment of last year’s cancelled season, the track team — along with the other two outdoor spring sports, baseball and softball — now has two new classes of athletes who have not yet played at the high school level. 

“This is the first time where I come in and I got two classes of kids, the freshman and the sophomores, that I don’t know a whole lot about in terms of ability because I never got to see them compete,” Kidd said earlier in March, as practices were just beginning.

One freshman Kidd has not yet seen compete is Madelyn Hajec, who started track in seventh grade. Hajec hopes to take part in the mile, 4×800 relay, and possibly the 2-mile this spring.

“It is going to be more challenging because one: I am not a middle schooler any more, and I only have one year of experience,” Hajec said. “Already the first two weeks have been hard conditioning, and the coaches are looking at you to decide what events you can do, which I believe is really good.”

Underclassmen who have yet to compete at the Varsity level in track have different worries than others.

“It is going to be difficult competing against older girls, but think about if you beat them, that will be a big accomplishment if you can do it,” Hajec said. “It is all about putting your heart into the sport and proving that you belong there.”

Kidd has a strategy for working with underclassmen who are anxious about never competing in a high school sport/meet.

“I tell them to be patient, work hard, have a positive mindset, and try to learn something from everyone that they encounter,” he said.

“I am looking forward to just enjoying my last high school track season and making the most of it.”

— Erika Richards

Just like in all the other sports this school year, the team’s schedule is ever evolving. Meets could be changed at a moment’s notice if a school is affected by COVID. 

“Some meets that we traditionally do, we won’t do, and we added a few new ones,” Kidd said. “In that way, it can kind of be exciting.”

Richards, who played Varsity soccer in the fall, knows firsthand that in order to enjoy the season, athletes have to be flexible and aware that things can change in an instant. 

I don’t think COVID will have a huge impact on the season,” Richards said. “A few invitationals have gotten cancelled and the postseason will look a little different, but other than that I don’t think it will have a huge impact.”

Senior Erika Richards runs in a relay event in 2019. (photo courtesy of Shawn Schuster)

Scheduling is not the only thing on the minds of athletes and coaches.

”I’m a little nervous about competing during a pandemic, just because I don’t want me or my teammates to get sick and miss a bunch of days,’’ Richards noted. 

Schuster added, “I’ve already ran a full indoor season this year with no issues, but getting quarantined is always in the back of my mind because it’s always a possibility that I could catch COVID or be around someone with it.”

Despite the pandemic-related obstacles the athletes and coaches have to face, flexibility and positivity can go a long way.

“I think we are going to be great competitors,” Hajec said. “I think we are going to have a really good team this year. We have really fast, strong boys and girls, and I believe if we just put in the effort we can make it far in this league.”