CIAC: The kids are back on track as winter season gets off the blocks

CIAC: The kids are back on track as winter season gets off the blocks

MERIDEN — Tuesday wasn’t just the start of the delayed winter sports season at Maloney. It was the first day track and field coach Don Askew was able to get on the school’s new track with his team.

Double bonus, and a long time coming.

“I was like a kid before Christmas last night; I was tossing and turning,” Askew said. “I’m just so excited. I’ve been waiting to coach anyone for the past so many months. It feels good.”

Basketball players, hockey players, swimmers and gymnasts were saying much the same thing Tuesday as practices formally launched for CIAC winter competition. It was the first permitted high school sports activity since mid-November, when the pandemic started its second surgef and the CIAC delayed the start of the winter season.

Games and meets are slated to start in just under three weeks, on February 8. 

Indoor track does not fall into that catagory. While it’s OK for runners, jumpers and throwers to now practice with their teams, the CIAC is holding off on meets until at least March because the Connecticut Department of Public Health is advising that large, multi-team events — a staple of indoor track —not be held in January and February.

Yet that’s no hangup for track athletes. They were among the high school athletes who missed out when the 2020 spring season was cancelled. That means they haven’t competed since the 2020 indoor state meets were completed last February.

“It was difficult missing the outdoor season," said Maloney sprinter and jumper Lauren Matias, a team captain. “Working out on my own isn't the same as seeing Coach Askew after a big race or high jump and getting a new PR or a big relay.

“It feels good to be back out here," Matias added. "The vibe will always be a little off, but it's still a piece of what you love doing. It helps to keep the spirits up and persevere through my senior year.”

Like Maloney, most area indoor track teams will look to practice outside so long as the weather cooperates. That’s business as usual in Cheshire, where the indoor teams traditionally practice outdoor on the turf and track at Maclary Athletic Complex.

Other schools will make use of auxiliary gyms or, in the case of Southington, space off the old athletic office that’s been converted into a throwing room.

No matter what the school, indoor or out, track athletes will practice wearing masks. That’s the across-the-board mandate for all winter athletes.

Track athletes, like their winter brethren, will also practice in cohorts. While the CIAC has given the green light to full team practices, many squads are training in cohorts to better ensure social distancing, guard against COVID-19 spread and limit quarantine losses.

“Social distancing will be maintained by all athletes and coaches at all times,” stressed Cheshire boys indoor track coach Pam Gunneson, who also coaches boys cross country. “Mask wearing, social distancing, and cohorting athletes worked very well in the fall for a successful and healthy cross country season. I know these steps will help to ensure a successful indoor track season, too.”

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