Maine track coaches contact athletes from a distance

Last Friday the Maine Principals' Association reversed course and allowed spring sports athletes at Maine high schools to be able to get in contact with coaches.

Meetings in groups, including ones formed by a coach or a captain, are discouraged to fall in line with social distancing guidelines. 

Now, coaches and athletes in track and field are finding their own ways of contacting one another. 

Tom Menendez, head coach at Monmouth Academy, has been trying to keep in contact with his athletes around his busy days as he and other track coaches have been passing out meals in the Monmouth community six days a week. 

"I'll basically check in on if they're healthy, their mental state," Menendez said. " Just general workouts, some I've found online for some kids, and basically telling them what I would do if we were all together in the season. Just keeping in touch with them and keeping them on an even keel."

Maine has yet to decide if schools will be returning this school year. The state's governor Janet Mills issued a "stay at home order" for residents of the state which went to effect on Thursday. Part of the order had schools closed until May 1. 

That date could be extended later on if coronavirus cases don't go down by then, so the prospect of having a spring track season in Maine is up in the air. This has left many seniors disappointed.

Edward Little senior jumper and thrower Olivia Jalbert has taken the potential loss of season well, but is upset about the potential canceled season. 

"It is very sad," Jalbert said. "We all thought after last outdoor season ended and after this year's indoor season ended that we had another chance, one more season. To think that could be taken away is heartbreaking. On top of that our last semester of classes together with friends and teachers before we go and it's just very unfortunate."

Jalbert finished in fourth in the javelin at last season's Class A state meet and also earned a fifth place in the high jump. The senior hasn't gotten in contact with head coach Rebecca Hefty quite yet, but has been working out in case of a season. 

"Because this new rule was put out so recently I have not gotten any workouts but I'm sure they will come very soon," Jalbert said. "I have been doing different things completely on my own since schools shut down. I have changed my mindset this past year and improved lots. There may only be a slim chance of a final outdoor season for us seniors but I want to make sure I don't fall behind on my progress. I want to make sure that if there is an outdoor season I am ready to go out and compete."

Jalbert has competed in track and field all four years of her high school career, so Hefty should be able to get in contact with her, as well as other seniors. Due to the uncertainty of the schedule right before Maine schools were canceled, which lined up with when teams were having their opening meetings, Hefty wasn't able to hold a team meeting before students dispersed to their homes. 

"I kick myself because I didn't have my preseason meeting prior to closing school," Hefty said. "I don't have a list which is so frustrating. Now that we can reach out to kids I'm finding that difficult. I've created a remind (a group-message system) but it's just not the same."

Hefty, like Jalbert, is upset because of the prospects the Red Eddies had this spring.

"It was hard waking up Monday morning and knowing we wouldn't have the first day of practice because for the first time in a very long time we would be on the track," Hefty said. "We had a tough season last year due to the weather and now this. Track and field is a tough sport to contact kids at EL just because of pure numbers but I'm trying. I can now give them guidance on what to be doing and the only thing I remind them about is you need to workout through strength and body work, which I can now provide ideas."

Ben Murphy, head track and field coach for Sacopee Valley, said that he is sending workouts to his dedicated athletes, as well as sharing bodyweight workouts and sprint workouts through a Facebook group. 

Hefty, Menendez and others are also giving workouts, but they all feel for their seniors. 

"I miss my athletes, especially my seniors," Hefty said. "No matter what the outcome is for the spring season I will celebrate my seniors."