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Local high school track athletes, coaches react to canceled season

  • Chris Taylor of Conant grabs the baton during a track meet at Mascenic last spring. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/22/2020 4:31:57 PM

When Governor Chris Sununu announced the closure of all New Hampshire schools for the remainder of the academic year, his speech made a nod to how particularly vexing this would be to the state’s high school seniors.

“Graduation is not going to look like…it did for their friends,” Sununu said. “Senior prom, those kinds of things are, unfortunately, going to look very, very different,” he said.

Those words left holes in the hearts of senior athletes, as their pent-up hope for a final spring season drained away, officially without a chance to reap the harvest of three dedicated years.

“This was supposed to be my year,” said Chris Taylor, a Conant High School senior and three-season runner. “This was definitely… going to be my peak year, and now I can’t show what I’m actually capable of.”

Taylor, who is set to attend and run at Gordon College in the fall, plans to continue training, almost in spite of the cancellation, in hopes of, in one way or another, “finishing out [his] high school year in top condition.”

This sentiment is shared by local track athletes, who know that improving in track is a “lengthy, time-consuming process,” as confirmed by Lance Flamino –  affectionately known as “Mino” by the ConVal track team he coaches. “It’s not just one practice, one workout, or one week that’s going to make that improvement,” he said. “It’s all about patience and persistence.”

In the world of athletics, “Track [and field] is super unique,” noted 21st-year Mascenic head track coach Mike Smith, a devotee to the sport since seventh grade. There is no ball (save for one 16-pound steel shotput). You won’t find any offense or defense. You most certainly won’t see the conventional uniform (this, of course, depends on to what extent you’d call a leotard and short-shorts that could pass as underwear “conventional”).

“It’s not even really a team sport… all the time,” said Michelle Boette, assistant coach at Wilton-Lyndeborough Cooperative Middle/High School. “It’s personal, and that means there are just so many opportunities for all different students. It encompasses such a wide range of personal skills in a way that other sports don’t, and that’s what I like about it.”

“Running on a team and running alone are super different,” said Smith, who has several marathons in his past; though he hesitates to call himself a marathon runner. Smith set up the “Coronavirus Track Club,” an incentive program to get athletes to record workouts and mileage they’ve done independently, for his team. The club comes complete with T-Shirts and a catchy slogan: “Running for the Health of it.”

Track, in many respects, is a lifestyle. In order to optimize performance as a track athlete, all components of an athlete’s life have an impact, from what they eat to the brand of shoes they wear.

“You need to be a 24-hour athlete in order to max your performance,” said Flamino, who in his impressive running resume has conference titles and a half-marathon championship under his belt.

Other high school coaches have created forms of support for their own teams. Conant  head coach Bill Edson plans to host a video call for his athletes and their families featuring running legends Don Paige, an American 800-meter champion, and Thomas Valles, a member of the prolific 1987 McFarland cross-country team, upon which the movie “McFarland USA” is based.

These are in attempt to support seniors who are grappling with the loss of their curtain season; efforts to find “the good in the bad,” said Boette, who is printing flags for seniors, just as the team would any other year.

“Life goes on, and to some extent you can control how you perceive it,” noted Flamino. “When the season was officially canceled, I sent out the workouts for the week and said ‘Hey, this is a bummer, … but training is cumulative, and the work we put in now will pay off in the fall or next spring.”

Flamino acknowledges the season’s cancellation as a byproduct of this time being “uncharted territory,” though he is trying to stay optimistic. 

“I am an optimist,” Flamino said, channeling Winston Churchill. “It does not seem too much use to be anything else.”

 

Trevor Pierce is a senior at Conant High School doing an internship at the Ledger-Transcript and is a member of the Conant track and field team.


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