CHESHIRE — After winning the 600 meters at the State Open last winter and earning All-State in cross country this past fall, Cheshire senior Ryan Farrell had high hopes for his senior indoor track season.
That changed Jan. 14 when the CIAC decreed that track and field athletes could practice, but due to Connecticut Department of Public Health concerns over multi-team meets, there would be no competition until at least March.
So by the time the CIAC announced on Feb. 18 that track teams could start competing March 1, Farrell was long gone. He’d decided to seek competition outside of Connecticut.
And before February was out, he’d won a national competition in the 800 meters.
“I was going to wait and see what happens, but then I saw online that events were being held elsewhere,” said Farrell, who set a Cheshire record of 1:23.54 when he won the 600 meters at the 2020 State Open. “I looked for meets that didn’t require you to run in masks.”
The road was rough out of the gate at the East Coast Invite held Feb. 5-6 at the Virginia Beach Sports Center. Farrell was told that he would be running at 10:30 p.m., but his race ended up being moved to 9 p.m.
He rushed over to make the start, but was disappointed to place 20th.
“When I got there, I wasn’t allowed to warm up or go to the bathroom before my race,” Farrell reported. “It was very frustrating.”
The experience motivated him to a better performance on Feb. 28 at the Adidas Indoor Nationals, also held at the Virginia Beach Sports Center. This time around, Farrell earned first place in the 800 meters with a time of 1:57.68.
“I just wanted to get a medal because they looked cool,” Farrell said. “I was in the second-fastest heat. One of the kids took the first lap out in 56 (seconds), so I sat on him and waited to make my move at the end.”
Last weekend, Farrell wrapped up his out-of-state adventure with a trip to Myrtle Beach for the National Scholastic Athletic Foundation USA Meet of Champions. He placed third in the 400-meter Emerging Elite race. His time of 50.59 was less than a second from the winning time of 49.71.
That was Saturday. On Sunday, Farrell ran the 800 and placed second in 1:55.92.
“I think this field was one of the most stacked groups I’ve run against in my life,” Farrell said. “This kind of competition will help me when I run in college.”
Farrell didn’t wear a mask in his races, but wore one when he was around people. Farrell also had to pass COVID-19 tests.
“They only took 10 minutes, which is the fastest test I’ve taken,” Farrell said.
After returning to Connecticut, he passed another COVID test in order to return to Cheshire High School and join the boys outdoor track and field team.
“We have a young group with a lot of guys wanting to step up this year,” stated Farrell. “I’m looking forward to starting the season.”
While he has excelled in middle distance, Farrell plans to try the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races this season.
He has drawn considerable interest from college programs, but hasn’t made a decision yet.
“I’m going to start the season and then look to choose a school in late April or early May,” said Farrell.
And while he was excited to run in the three out-of-state meets this winter, Farrell said that it was a hard decision to not compete in his senior season for Cheshire indoor coach Pam Gunneson.
“I wouldn’t be the track or cross country runner I am without her,” stated Farrell.