The SMC track and cross country team are finally back to competing and running without the constant ubiquity of masks
By: Eden Llodrá
While for most of us it is a struggle to walk with a mask, try running or starting a race with one on. This year the Saint Mary’s track team is relieved to be able to run without masks, yet the remains of social distancing and mask protocols are still present in tournaments and indoor practices. Compared to last season’s strict COVID-19 protocol restrictions and training regimens, this year, there is an unanimous feeling of relief and excitement to be somewhat back to normal.
From an athlete’s perspective, Trinity Santana, a junior on the track team, said “it's honestly just so nice to be back and even though things aren't completely ‘normal,’ it's nice that my team has kept the same love for running even through the pandemic.” Although not everything has reversed back to the way it was, there is team motivation in the rekindled friendships that resurfaced after quarantine.
Training without the push and reward of being with like-minded teammates made last year’s mental and physical struggles immense. With constant COVID-19 tests, health forms, and teammates separated across the country, the track team, like most other sports teams, felt the heavy weight of the pandemic on their shoulders. Santana shared that “last season during cross country and track we had to do temperature checks going into every meet.”
No matter what, there was no escaping the new reality that COVID-19 introduced to all of us, and for the track team that was greeting teammates from afar and racing with masks in hand. Stuart Kendall, a senior on the team, said “as of right now the training has resumed to pre-Covid conditions, other than wearing masks during weights.” With the introduction of the vaccine, restrictions have been slowly lifted and teams do not feel the same kind of stress they had felt before. Slowly, teams are building back up again as a unit and getting the chance to travel again for competitions.
The Cross Country races have made progress in restoring the way competitions used to be, yet Kendall said “some races still have limited entries in order to limit the total number of athletes racing at once.” Although things may not be completely back to normal, it is admirable that sports teams are still being mindful and proactive in preventing the spread of the pandemic. The Saint Mary’s track team seems to have outrun the isolation of COVID, yet minor restrictions remain in their practice regimen, but have not stopped them from racing together, masks set aside.
This season for most feels like a fresh start, a chance to reconnect, relearn and reflect. The track team feels the excitement of being able to celebrate each other's successes and rekindle their love for running. Since last season, many had to continue training on their own, which made it hard, as many lost the feeling of what it was like to be part of a community. Now, as team training has commenced, the act of striving together is what makes everything the team has been through worth it.