In December, coaches and athletes from Manchester Essex indoor track teams were looking to leave the previous season in the dust.
Last year, the indoor track season was held outdoors in between the traditional winter and spring seasons – a unique one-off season named “Fall II” that the track athletes shared with the football and cheering squads – due to COVID-related concerns. When the current season kicked off on December 12, the hope was that with the squads returning indoors during the traditional seasonal window in the winter season would signal a return to a more normal schedule.
Alas, that was not to be.
“Heading into the 21-22 winter season, coaches and athletes on COVID format has wreaked havoc with our team this year,” explains Manchester Essex indoor track coach Nelson Desilvestre. “Fewer meets, fewer chances to compete hurt all of us. The kids had to adjust to running on indoor tracks again. We only had one athlete who had ever run in an indoor track before this season. Following COVID protocols have been challenging considering how often they changed and Omicron racing through the country did not help. It caused us to have to scale back our ability to do what we wanted to because we were never certain what the following day would or will bring.”
That uncertainty made it difficult to navigate a short regular season in which the boys squad went 1-3 and girls squad finished 0-4.
“Quite honestly, it hasn't been much of season,” says Desilvestre. “Having such few meets and the fear of COVID, we had a lot of restraints. Because of it, the team really hasn't been able to find out where they stand to reach their goals as we would have hoped.”
While the season was a tough one for the Hornets, there were some individual victories to celebrate. Jack Newton set the school record in the high jump and qualified for the Division 5 Meet on February 18, while excelling in events such as the long jump, 1000, mile and relays. Nate Gardner set the sophomore record in the high hurdles, and performed well in the long jump and relays. Caelie Patrick had the second fastest time in the conference, qualifying for the postseason meet in the 1000 while also excelling in the mile and relays. Amy Vytopilova was strong in the 300, shot put and relays, Caroline MacKinnon in the 600 and relays and Charlie Lations competed at a high level in the mile, two-mile and relay events. Also of note were the performances of the boys 4x400 and girls 4x800 and 4x400 relay teams.
With the regular season over, the next big meet for the team is the Cape Ann League Meet on February 8 at the Reggie Lewis Center. The top 24 performances for all CAL teams in the hurdles and dash events qualify, as well as the top 18 performers in all other events.
“The CAL is a very tough league with exceptional coaching and very good athletes,” explains Desilvestre. “For example, three of the teams in the league finished in the top 10 of the Division 4 state relays on the girl's side and four teams on the boy's side with Newburyport boys, and North Reading girls winning the meet outright. So, for them to get into this meet easily is what makes it special.”
After that is the Last Chance Qualifier on February 12 and the Rising Meet on February 15, both at the same venue.
“We have several athletes who have qualified for some of the meets, but we won't know anything about how many because, like the CAL meet, they take in a certain number of athletes per event so we have to wait until all the coaches around the state enter their athletes to find out what athlete will run in what meet,” says Desilvestre. “So, it is a bit up in the air. There is also a Pentathlon meet at the end of February that several athletes have expressed interest in going to. There are no qualifying standards, but you have to compete in all five events. That should be fun.”
One postseason meet that the Hornets won’t participate in this year is the Coaches Invitational, which was supposed to take place this past weekend but was cancelled outright due to the blizzard.
“The meet will not be rescheduled,” explains Desilvestre. “It hurt us because we lost an opportunity for the kids to qualify to get another competition under their belt. Not only that, but they lost a chance to better their seed times and we were going to try a couple of experiments which now may be trickier to accomplish if we want to still give it a try.”