As the rest of the sports world came to a halt in recent weeks, Grant Union’s track and field met for practice Thursday, ahead of Oregon School Activities Association’s suspension of all spring sports practices and contests through April 28.
A day before the ban, longtime head coach Sonna Smith said all the team could do, until further notice, was to continue to practice.
“That is all we can do right now,” Smith said.
Smith said track and field competitions, even without spectators, are an inherently large gathering of people. They require a staff of 40 people or more, and tournaments typically see multiple schools competing.
Smith said that under normal circumstances it is critical to work on conditioning the first few weeks of the season, especially for those on the team who do not play a winter sport.
With 11 seniors returning, six on the boys team and five on the girls, the looming possibility of not having a season at all takes on another dimension should OSAA decide to cancel the season altogether.
“As a coach, it is a frustration and letdown,” Smith said. “I have coached many of these kids since they were in the seventh grade.”
Smith said that most have plans after high school that go beyond track and field.
Smith said there would be challenges should the season resume later.
“I have encouraged them to work on conditioning in the meantime, but the reality is that not all of them will,” Smith said. “So for those kids we are at square one.”
For the girls team, who were a half of a point shy of taking the state championship last season, the goal is to place high enough in their respective events to make it to the state tourney.
Senior Megan McNamana, a shot put and disc thrower, said her goal is to go to state in one of her events.
“A few more feet in of those events can get me to state,” McNamana said.
McNamana said the team is very supportive of one another, and many have competed together since middle school, which adds to the group camaraderie.
“Throwers can get down on themselves when they come up short, but runners are always there to cheer you on,” she said.
Sierra Cates, a runner, said she has struggled with self-doubt before competitions and is working on building her confidence and mental toughness.
Last season, she placed third in the 100-meter dash, clocking in with a personal record of 13.06 at the state tourney and fifth in the 200 and ninth on the 4x400 relay team.
She said just going to state was a great experience.
Cates said she is hopeful she is able to watch the underclassmen have the same experience she did at state last year.
“I really want to be a part of that experience, and I want to see them have the time that I had last year,” she said.
Smith said, while the team is hoping the season picks back up, they are being realistic, considering the precautions being taken by league officials at both the college and professional level.