Track is back: Chesterton hosts La Porte in first local prep outdoor meet since May 2019
CHESTERTON -- May 23, 2019.
When the Valparaiso Regional was held that day, nobody could've ever guessed there wouldn't be another outdoor prep track meet in Northwest Indiana for over 21 months.
Then 2020 and the coronavirus happened, wiping out spring sports in the state before, in many cases, it even started. Trine University hosted a Hoosier State Relays qualifier March 7, but the season was put on hold days later and subsequently cancelled April 2.
"Having the surprise and shock from COVID, everything being swept out from under us, was pretty intense," Chesterton junior Camryn Dunn said. "Everybody who was preparing to compete last year was really looking forward to a great season. It was definitely unexpected for everybody."
An unusually mild early March night welcomed the sport back Tuesday, when Chesterton and La Porte got together for a dual meet, a symbol of promise for the impending seasons that never took place a year ago.
"It's probably the best weather we'll have 'til May," Trojans girls coach Lindsay Moskalick said. "I'm excited to see what they can do this season and just to have a season, finally. I think there was a lot of excitement and nerves. Our sophomores are technically freshmen. They didn't have a freshman season. The freshmen didn't have an eighth grade season. A lot of these kids have been waiting for this season to come."
La Porte hurdler Chaise Magnuson certainly was.
"It's the first time I've run an outdoors meet in two years. I was super excited to get back into it," Magnuson said. "My mom was really shook about (COVID). I didn't leave the house for like two months. It was a big void for me. I had soccer, getting back into it, I was the most out of shape I've been in my life. Obviously waiting for so long, all the indoor training I've been doing the past few months, it's starting to pay off. I was really looking forward to last season, it got cancelled, it sucks, now I'm onto my junior year and I really want to excel this year."
Chesterton 400 runner Jacob Noel called it 'a fresh, new start.'
"It was pretty disappointing at first last year," he said. "Going into this year, I'm not worrying about anything. Everybody's in the same shape as you. I feel like it's just fair all around. The motivation for me actually started out pretty low. It built up as all my friends were in the same spot as me, then just building into a season all together as a team."
"It was definitely disappointing, not getting a junior season," teammate Nick Cain said. "My senior year, just coming in, finish strong, and go on with life. I was pretty anxious for the season coming in. It's really nice, not having an indoor season, to come out to see where we're starting at as far as times and see how we improve throughout the season."
Back in November, Moskalick and Chesterton boys coach Bryan Nallenweg talked with Athletic Director Jeff Hamstra and Assistant A.D. Tommy Berry on the idea of working in a few meets, weather permitting, before spring break, since indoor meets remain scarce.
"We still wanted to provide an opportunity for the kids to get meets in in the month of March," Moskalick said.
La Porte's coaches were glad to be contacted.
"These kids have been waiting for a year to do this. They were really excited to get out here," Slicers girls coach Stephanie Lewis said. "We're so thankful they invited us. It's a very new team, a very young team. The girls were a little nervous. It was a great opportunity for them to set a mark, set a time, set a distance and move forward from that. I think everybody had a really good time. It's nice to pick up a couple of these meets to give them a little more time before (the regular season starts) April 13."
The LP boys team is similarly inexperienced, so coach Corbin Slater relished the chance to get their feet wet.
"We were young two years ago, we're doubly young now," he said. "You lose that whole chunk of upperclassmen who always set the tone. It's just nice to get 'em out. It's just all about getting some experience. The long jump, we haven't jumped into a pit. Pole vault, we haven't had guys get up on a pole yet. It's just a great starting point, giving them the opportunity to compete, to go out and have some fun. I think there's just a huge learning curve for a lot of guys. I feel like some guys feel like they kind of got cheated from last year."
After winning the sectional in the 100-meter dash and taking second in the 400 as a freshman, Dunn was hoping to build on her success last spring. Instead, she found herself trying to stay sharp without benefit of high school facilities. She ran on her own when the weather allowed and worked out with a trainer while gyms remained open, then having to come up with at-home activities after they closed. She ran in Warsaw's Dave Fulkerson Classic on Jan. 30 and an individual entry meet at Youngstown State University last month.
"I was just taking any opportunities I found," Dunn said. "Every opportunity is one worth taking. I feel like this fueled a lot of our ambition to push harder every day, every practice. Just having that meet mentality, to get together with another group and get back into it, it's a great experience. We were all just realy pumped, kind of let our worries go aside, get out there, get running, have fun with it and see where we can go from there. We have a good point to base everything off of. I know I can progress as I get more practice in, specialize things."
All the events were held outside with the exception of the pole vault and high jump, which were done in the fieldhouse.
"It's usually the shot putters that are last," Lewis said. "It was great for them to be able to go watch an event and cheer them on."
La Porte has another 'exhibition' meet scheduled for March 24 with Mishawaka. Chesterton will host a handful of local teams in a distance event showcase Friday and welcome Portage for another dual next week.
"With the indoor season basically being cancelled, we didn't want them to just be practicing for two months without anything to look forward to," Nallenweg said. "The kids were excited, especially with not having a season last year, to get back out and compete. We had a lot of really good performances for the first meet. I'm looking forward to seeing what the guys can do the next few months."