Tuesday afternoon wasn’t supposed to be so quiet.
Instead, the gun should have been going off at the River King & Queen Athletic Complex as track athletes shoot out of the blocks in some of the first outdoor competition of the year. The annual Early Bird Invite was supposed to go off on the cool evening, and our local teams should have been competing.
Instead, it was another day of training solo for most of them. It’s become the norm since the coronavirus (COVID-19) shut down schools and cancelled sporting events.
“I’ve talked to some others, we’re worried it’s done for and going to follow what the collegiate athletes have done,” Clinton head girls track coach Tony Steen said. “I’m trying to be the positive one, but the more this goes on it’s harder to stay that positive and see the future. I think the big thing is we get through this and we grow as a team and a community as everything keeps getting better.”
Steen is just one of many coaches around the area who’s been separated from their teams and had their practices put on hold as the spring sports seasons continue.
“We sent a thing out to all the girls, letting them know that we cant personally meet as a group but we want hem to keep continuing to build their base with anything they can do at home,” Steen said.
That includes running in the ever-warming spring weather. It includes weight lifting with anything they can find at home and body weight exercises. It includes technique and form repetition.
“This break is teaching me to always find a way to make things work,” Northeast junior Neveah Hildebrandt said. “With everything being shut down, it’s kind of hard to find places to lift [or] run, but you just have to make it work with what you have. Our teachers and coaches are definitely helping us along the way, sending out encouraging messages, giving us great opportunities to put in work at home. They have been a key part to keeping our hopes.”
Hildebrandt is a state-qualifying sprinter for the Rebels, and has posted photos working out on her own. She’s even worked with her family to build a DIY hitting station in her back yard to prep for softball.
“I consider myself really lucky having a brother that is also a coach,” Hildebrandt said. “At least 3 days a week we go to the track and do regular workouts that we were doing over the summer, as well as lifting twice a week, so it’s almost like a normal training schedule for me.”
Track teams everywhere are still hanging on to hopes that there will be a state track meet, even if it has to be later than usual and with less prep time. Many are returning state qualifiers.
Camanche junior Dylan Darsidan is one of those.
“Right now I’m running twice a day, just easy mileage in the morning,” Darsidan said. “Then at night I’m doing my designated workout for the day from my coach – track work or long mileage, then I finish my night off with a lift or body weight workout. As well with my training I am on a high-carb diet that is helping fuel me for hopefully an upcoming season.”
Social media and electronic communication has been huge during this unprecedented time.
“I’m very thankful for the coaching staff at Dewitt,” Central DeWitt track athlete Crystal Burke said. “They have sent workouts for us to do at home and outside, and they continue to try to help us in any way they can! I personally have turned my basement into a mini gym! I filled old milk jugs to use as weights as well as heavy boxes. I use whatever I can find a purpose for! I am also lucky to live near some very steep gravel roads that I can use for hill workouts.”
Other sports are working on the same things that track athletes are. Clinton’s soccer teams are posting workouts on social media daily, and using it as a challenge to post their workouts.
Softball and baseball teams are prepping for summer in hopes that those seasons will start on time in Iowa. In Illinois, softball and baseball are in the same category as the rest of the spring sports. Many of these are team sports, making the workouts harder to manage.
“We encouraged the kids to continue with private lessons to keep in softball shape but since softball is a team sport we can not encourage the kids to get together and practice due to social distancing,” Fulton head softball coach Jessie Rosenow said.
Rosenow and her team were aiming for postseason success after success in 2019. Rosenow also has a roster rull of seniors, many of which are or are hoping to continue softball at the collegiate level.
“It is very hard as we were very excited for the season and to come to a complete halt after two weeks into the grind it’s hard,” Rosenow said. “As we are in uncharted territory when we left the kids it was a big question if and when we would see them again.”
That’s one thing that everyone is dealing with: the uncertainty. It’s hitting athletes hard.
“It’s a weird feeling for all seniors knowing that we might not have our prom, graduation or be able to get back on the court, field, or track for the last time,” Clinton tennis player Andrew Brisch said. “It’s just pretty hard knowing that we might not be able to enjoy or participate in the things that we’ve worked hard on for a majority of our lives.”
The athletes keep working out, keep training, and keep hoping. One thing that’s still missing and will be for the foreseeable future is their team.
“At first I thought I would miss having track meets and being able to compete more than I’d miss anything else,” DeWitt’s Crystal Burke said. “Right now the thing I miss most is being able to work together with my teammates and coaches. We had a great start to the season and I really miss them all.”
All athletes are feeling the absence of their teammates right now.
“The hardest thing for the team is that we can’t train together,” Northeast senior runner Grant Rickertsen said. “The reason we consistently do so well in track is because in practice we compete with each other as if we were running in a meet. We push each other and hold each other accountable which is why we improve so much throughout the season. Training by ourselves is something all of us are pursuing as our track coach gives us workouts we can do by ourselves at home. But, it’s not even close to the effect training as a team has for our program.”