Salvaging a Season: More than the State Meet
On March 14th of 2019, at his first track meet as a high school athlete, then freshman Devin Menchaca from Sullivan South ran a 5:16.02 in the 1600m at Dobyns-Bennett. Over the course of the season he steadily lowered his time down to 5:00.58 by April 30th. However, his season ended there since he did not qualify to compete at the Section 1 meet which had a qualifying standard of 5:00. At one of the few meets that have been competed this season, Devin ran a 5:02.95 in the same race at the same meet he competed at the previous year. Barring any physical setback, I have no doubt Menchaca would have been under the five-minute mark in short order. Though he may still be able to break through that barrier in an abbreviated season, a full slate of steady growth and personal accomplishment will be lost.
Yesterday, the state recommended schools remain closed until April 24th. Most school system's announcement thereafter followed suit.
However, the TSSAA remained firm this recommendation did not change their target dates to save Spring Fling Competitions. As this pertains to the Track and Field State Championship, yes, there is still a chance we will have a State Meet. However, with the way the timeline is trending, I have my doubts the quality of such meet would rival those of year's past. I also have my doubts the meaning would either.
The State Meet is ultimately a celebration of our state's best but our state's best make up a very small fraction of the pool of athletes that truly make a track and field season special. While, as a Milesplit contributor, I was salivating at the content that would be created by the likes of Sims, Vickers, and Kinder pursuing All-Time State Bests. On the other hand, as a former coach, I sympathize with all others and their athletes that just persevered through the longest stretch of straight training, endured the worst weather conditions of the year, and right at that moment where some were going to lace up their spikes for the first time, their season was put on hold.
Whether an athlete's goal this season was a state record, school record, or personal record this pause is affecting all of us and preserving the highest level of competition may only salvage the season for some. In this scenario, as well as the other in which the season is cancelled altogether, my hope is informal "all-comers" meets will be scheduled beyond the academic calendar into the summer as social distancing permits to allow those athletes who haven't stopped their training amidst the current Safer-At-Home Ordinances a chance to reach their goals they set forth before the season started.