H.S. Track: Spring season finally returning after nearly two years

  • Greenfield’s Theo Popusoi competes in the pole vault during the 2019 WMass Division 2 championship. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Intern
Published: 5/4/2021 8:24:46 PM
Modified: 5/4/2021 8:24:45 PM

Spring sports have officially begun. For the first time in almost two full years, spring sports are back in action in Franklin County. Fall and winter sports were both able to compete during the 2019-20 school year before the coronavirus pandemic swept through the nation, leading to the cancellation of all spring competition across the country in 2020.

After an unimaginably long layoff, track and field teams around the area kickstarted the beginning of their season last week. Considering the gap, coaches are extremely excited to be back to practice with their new teams.

“You may not be able to tell because of my mask, but I’m smiling the whole time at practice,” offered Frontier boys head coach Walt Flynn. “What a gift it is to be back with these kids.”

That sentiment certainly seemed to be the consensus among coaches and players, as Mahar coach Sarah Woodward had a similar view on the return of spring sports.

“It feels amazing [to have the opportunity to compete again],” Woodward declared. “After almost two full years away, spring sports are finally back. We are just super excited, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to compete and for the newcomers to learn.”

The layoff has not only provided a sense of anxious excitement to compete again, it has also potentially made it difficult for athletes to practice, which could lead to a little bit of rust when starting back up. Both Flynn and Woodward do not see this notion as too large of an issue for their teams as some of their athletes have taken to new sports, but gearing up for this season has been rather dissimilar compared to the past.

“Many of our athletes ran cross country in the fall and were used to working with protocols,” Flynn said. “[However], given the two-year gap, I don’t think our preparation was as strong as it ordinarily would have been.”

Again, Woodward reiterated Flynn’s point, mentioning the advantage of playing multiple sports during the pandemic.

“Most of our athletes have been playing other sports, so many of them are ready to go and are used to training in masks,” Woodward stated.

Despite the lingering effects of COVID-19, roster size is not necessarily a problem for the majority of programs in Franklin County like it has been in other sports this year. Flynn’s Frontier squad is still up in the 40’s in terms of numbers, which is about two-thirds of what it normally is, yet still plenty to field a functioning team. Woodward’s Mahar team consists of 33 participants. While 33 is a tad low in her eyes, she is still certain they will have a ton of solid outputs this season.

“We are looking for our athletes to get some personal records this year,” Woodward articulated. “We are also hopeful to break some school records, and if championships are happening, we want to get as many kids qualified as possible.”

Rebuilding, reloading, and simply seeing what their rosters are going to look like are all common themes among coaches this spring because of the missed year. The last time some of these athletes competed was two full years ago, meaning freshmen are now juniors, and sophomores are now seniors. This adds an interesting aspect to the spring season, according to Flynn.

“We’re looking to introduce track and field to two new grades of athletes as opposed to one,” began Flynn, referring to both last year and this year’s freshmen classes. “We have to rebuild a lineup after two years of losses. Two years ago [we lost our 2019 class to graduation], and last year we had the lost season [due to the pandemic].”

Action on the track is scheduled to begin for some area schools on Wednesday.

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