In the picture, members of the Mustangs Track and Field Club are smiling.
They have every reason to be happy.
Taken in February, at the indoor University of Washington high school indoor invitational track meet in Seattle, the team of 20 athletes from the 250-member club had just made a good showing against a strong field of competitors.
Aiden Grout won gold and Jake Schmidt captured silver in the men’s event, while Holly Harrison took silver and Madison Gordon finishing fifth in the women’s event.
In the 4×400 metre relay the team of Harrison, Jade Lenton, Domenique Ronse, and Maiya Brunoro took the silver medal, and in the Men’s 4X400 metres, it was Grout, Saba Khorasani, Cameron Calbick, and Felix Allen taking the bronze medal.
At the time, they did not know it would be the only competition of the season for the Langley-based club, which was sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic that brought athletic competitions to a halt, including a club meet that is a crucial source of revenue.
Now, slowly, the team is getting ready to get back on the track.
Under phased-in return to play regulations, the number of athletes allowed per coach has been increased from nine to 19, which will make practices easier to plan.
“That opens up possibilities,” said Mustangs club president Kevin Harrison, who said members are champing at the bit to get back on the field.
“There’s a lot of pent-up energy for the athletes, for sure,” Harrison observed.
Competition is not a practical possibility at the current stage of the return to play process, but being able to train represents a big step forward, Harrison explained.
As part of the return to play, registration has been opened for the Mustangs cross-country program for all ages.
As well, their 10-month high school track and field program will start Sept. 21, and the club will be announcing a fall speed program for 11- and 12-year-olds, to begin Sept. 26, that will focus on the development of speed, as well as some strength, mobility and flexibility, Harrison explained.
Mustangs have also been coping with a non-pandemic related problem; renovations by the Township to the Mustangs home base, McLeod Athletic Park (MAP).
“Our annual track meet at MAP is our major source of funding for the year,” Harrison observed.
While the improvements are welcome, Harrison stressed, they have required the Mustangs to train at the Walnut Grove Secondary School track.
Because many school track and field programs have also been sidelined by the coronavirus, Harrison is hoping it will lead some athletes to sign up with the Mustangs.
“There’s not much going on [in the school programs],” Harrison noted.
“We’re trying to take advantage of the opportunity.
“Rebuilding our membership is our main objective.”
Another concern for Harrison is the effect the enforced shutdown will have on university recruiting, often a welcome source of scholarships for high-performing student athletes.
Without competitions, university talent scouts won’t have a chance to spot up-and-coming talent.
“The ones [universities] who are chasing athletes, usually look at Grade 11 ,” Harrison observed.
“There is no Grade 11 [competitions this year].”
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As of Aug 24, BC athletics is in Phase 3, where COVID-19-related restrictions are progressively loosened.
While Phase 3 technically allows competitions, it effectively rules out track and field meets by requiring competitions to follow current BC Health guidelines that limit group gatherings to a maximum of 50 “and continued use of physical distancing and hygiene measures. “
Maximum group size counts include everyone who is in the facility and attending the event – staff, coaches, participants and spectators – with sufficient space to allow for physical distancing.
Inter-provincial competitions “are not recommended at this time.”