Toilet paper trophies and self-discipline: How local track teams are staying active
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs High School runners Jaydon and Jaxson Fryer missed track so much, they made a funny video of them “competing.”
The brothers participated in track and field events in their home — high jumping and pole vaulting onto a bed. The boys also zoom back and forth in front of the camera after coming out of the starting blocks position. They even try their hands at shot putting what appears to be a shoe and long jumping across the hardwood floor. At the end, one takes the podium with the national anthem playing and holds up a toilet paper trophy.
That’s what track season looks like now that the spread of COVID-19 has postponed spring sports in Colorado until at least April 18.
“It was just us being bored at home,” Jaydon said. “You don’t have to just stay at home and play video games. You can have fun. Even though we’re not having our track season, you can still pole vault with a broom.”
In addition to the video, the brothers have been doing workouts to stay in shape on their own. Athletes aren’t totally left to their own devices, though.
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Sailors head track coach Lisa Renee Tumminello has the team using an app called Final Surge to assign and track workouts, nutrition and more. Additionally, the team is using Instagram live to stay connected and fake the feeling of being together. Every few days, a few members of the team will host an Instagram live where the team can talk and interact with each other in real time.
Sailor seniors Siera Harrison and Maggi Congdon led a live video last week. They started by talking about motivation and ended with a game of truth or dare, requesting their teammates to comment with suggestions.
“We’re definitely not as connected as if we were sitting in a tent for eight hours every Saturday,” Harrison said. “But Lisa Renee has done a great job.”
While they are a bit lonelier at home, individual workouts have allowed for flexibility and creativity. Athletes are no longer confined to a school schedule and don’t have to wait until after 3 p.m. to start practice.
“Some people are lifting their cats as weight, doing relay exchanges with their dogs,” Jaydon said. “It’s really cool to see how everyone is making fun out of a not-so-great situation.”
Soroco High School head track coach David Bruner sends his team an email with the workout for the day. It’s the same system his returning athletes are used to using over spring break, so he trusts they are completing their workouts.
“It’s just based on trust,” he said. “I’m pretty trustworthy of my kids. This is my 14th year of coach track here at Soroco. We always did spring break that way, and they always came back in pretty good shape.”
Tumminello said it’s challenged her and her assistant coaches to think more about how they communicate and improve upon that.
“This is a blessing to be able to get all of this dialed in and have this as a resource,” she said. “For example, when we’re in a normal season and an athlete hasn’t started a season yet, they’re still in their ski season, they can still stay connected with the team.”
The biggest challenges
One thing that all track athletes seem to agree on is they enjoy the sport because of the sense of team and family. Coming together for practice is more than just a social experience, though. It allows every athlete to push each other and improve themselves and the people next to them. That’s an aspect of the sport that Soroco senior Kourtney Bruner misses the most.
“I like to workout as a team,” she said. “I feel like it helps us push each other. I work out with my sister, which is nice to at least have someone, but I don’t like to work out alone.”
Tumminello fears the first-year track and field athletes won’t feel as much a part of the team as they would if they could practice together.
“I always think, how can we get our newcomers to feel like a team and gel with a team?” Tumminello said. “The first bus trip, when they sit on a yellow bus for a few hours, does that. Not having that first trip was a challenge.”
Track is full of technical and individual details that are nearly impossible to address virtually. Starting blocks, handoffs, throwing or jumping form are all key parts of the sport that will have to wait to be coached until the team is allowed to meet again.
Until then, Soroco throwing coach Shawn Hayes sends his athletes videos and notes on technique to watch for and focus on.
With some idea of what was coming through the first few weeks of practice, Hayes spent as much time as he could on the technical aspects of shot put and discus.
“We kind of progressed a little further than what we normally would have,” he said. “We got into some of the rotation and the glides and kind of pushed that a little further forward.”
Troubles with recruiting
Bruner hasn’t made it official yet, but she plans to run cross country and track in college, likely in Arizona. Bruner has a solid resume, topped by an eighth-place state finish in the 200-meter race last spring. She’s already visited the school she hopes to commit to and hasn’t been worried about the recruiting process.
“Our whole country is going through the same thing, so they kind of understand,” she said, “I think I would have been able to be stronger when I went into college (if it wasn’t for the spring sports suspension).”
Jack Tracy, a senior thrower for the Sailors, is hoping to compete in track and field in college also. Unlike Bruner, he doesn’t have a junior season for recruiters to refer to, since he suffered a knee injury during football that sidelined him through the spring.
Now, with his senior season hacked down to a couple of weeks, he’s still hoping to catch the eye of a few college programs.
“I was super excited for this year to see where I could go,” Tracy said. “Now that we don’t have it, it’s kind of tough. I’m still working toward it like we’re gonna have the season.”
Tracy spends his days flipping tractor tires and cycling to try to build his strength and endurance. If the season ultimately is cut short, he hopes to send videos to recruiters and take part in summer track meets.
“Not all hope is lost,” he said.
‘I will feel so much better’
Getting through this time of quarantining and social distancing comes down to finding the self-motivation to start something and having the self-discipline to work hard to the end. That doesn’t just apply to athletes and workouts. Everyone working from home and trying to stay on top of tasks need those tools just to maintain a schedule, let alone stay fit.
When it comes to finding the reason to get up and go, everyone’s a little different, but Harrison has a pretty universal mantra.
“For me, to get out and run, it clears my head,” Harrison said. “With everything going on, I know I will feel so much better if I go out and run.”
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