The low turnout of people for the 2020-2021 track season so far

Alvin Gonzales

Staff Writer

     With all the catastrophic, average-sized, and minor problems that COVID-19 has brought to the entire world and with how it has all changed the overall state of millions of people living in it, sports have still found a way to proceed. The Track and Field team at AHS is set to have their official 2020-2021 tryouts on April 19th of 2021, but so far the expectations for a track team filled with previous team members and newly interested ones have been quite low.

     Josh De Gracia (11) has been a part of the track team since his freshman year, but believes that the team this year won’t be able to reach its usual size.

     “I predict that the season will be short and silent this year. With many restrictions, I doubt that spectators will be allowed inside track meets for safety reasons. In addition, I don’t think that all meets are official; I’d expect some events to be cancelled. I’m also aware that I’m not the only one discouraged from joining the team during COVID-19. I’d imagine there being less people who show up to practice. … Hypothetically, because of COVID-19, the team could be the smallest it’s ever been as opposed to the previous years,” De Gracia claimed. “Because of COVID-19, I’m not joining track this year.”

     Another track athlete previously on the team, Vijay Murali (10), joined the track season in his freshman year right when it got cancelled and shares the similar views about the future of the track team this year.

     “Well I was originally gonna continue track last year and join this year, then COVID-19 came along and ruined all my plans. Also, the fact that my brother is a germaphobe doesn’t help my case. … [For the season,] honestly, I have no idea what to expect other than maybe four people per race and an empty stand or something,” Murali remarked.

     In contrast to De Gracia and Murali’s opinion is Ryan Arakal (10), a previous member of the track team, with the idea that the track team this year will actually go well and almost even act as a true test of dedication for the sport.

     “I think the team will be really good because most of the people who love the sport will be there. … I originally wanted to do track before the coronavirus pandemic. I loved the hype of the events we had even though we only did two last year. Those plans never changed; I am still going to do track this year if everything goes the way I want it to. … Hopefully my parents can find the time to drop me [off] at practices,” Arakal shared. “I think the track team season will be very thrown together this year… Many people won’t come because of coronavirus, and also the restrictions will make the process a lot harder. [However], I still think it will be a really fun season.”

     Besides how large the team this year might look, De Gracia wanted to also bring up the reality of how well the team will perform this year.

     “Realistically, I cannot speak for expectations when it comes to the team’s performance. Performance depends on whether or not our runners this year invested time into their individual practice during the off-season; that is the question of commitment and integrity, which we would not know of, but I’d imagine that those intending to join—especially during a time like this—would not have just been sitting at home,” De Gracia elaborated.

     With the dominating presence of COVID-19 in the world, all track athletes returning and not returning this year obviously must know what they’d be getting themselves into; De Gracia, with exclusive insight about COVID-19 cases, is able to touch more on the precautions athletes should consider.

     “My mother is an assistant manager at Kaiser who helps care after the suffering patients and sees people still being brought in daily. She asked me not to risk exposure and potentially bring the virus in her home. I respect her concern and agreed not to take part in the team this year,” De Gracia explained. “Cons that come with starting the season would be safety and commitment. If people leave their homes, they are susceptible to catching the illness. During a pandemic like this, it would be best to stay healthy. If a student does get sick, they would have commitment problems and would likely have to stay home as a precaution for their symptoms. There is no point in making a team if there can’t be enough people to compete; meets would just be cancelled.”

     Especially with the mental effects that COVID-19 places on everyone, track athletes like Murali have experienced a struggle to find motivation for much in general.

     “Recently because of COVID and all this online school stuff, I’ve been feeling unmotivated to do training for track. When I finish my homework and studying for the day, I usually just go full potato mode,” Murali shortly explained.

     Similar to Murali and his struggle to train much for track because of having to spend the majority of his time at home to quarantine because of COVID-19 is Arakal, who has still been trying to train.

     “To be honest, I am not really preparing much. Other than occasionally short sprints after my weekly mile runs for PE, there isn’t much else. It’s hard to find the time and motivation to condition by myself or go to the cohort conditionings at school. However, I am pretty much set that I want to do track this year,” Arakal claimed.

     If COVID-19 couldn’t prevent sports from finding a way to continue, then athletes shouldn’t be forced to stay away from doing what they love or are truly interested in. According to De Gracia, the track season beginning during COVID-19 could also turn out to be a good thing.

     “With Zoom and quarantine, students are confined to sit in one place for hours and stay within their homes. Starting the track season this year gives these kids the opportunity to move around and stay healthy. Not many people are willing to run alone, but if the season opens, they can jog with friends in a non-contact sport. … Many people have spent quarantine in isolation. If the season was to start now, the people who make the team would have the opportunity to socialize,” De Gracia explained.

     To go along with De Gracia’s supportive opinions on the positive effects of beginning the track season during COVID-19, Murali is able to express the same feelings.

     “I remember being oddly in a better mood during track season; I never really felt upset or depressed for long periods of time. I was proud of the muscle I was building because my calves were pretty defined. It’s really cool to see your body change over time and to know that your hard work is paying off. Also, you’re probably going to make so many new friends. The friends I made in track are some of the best ones I’ve made during my time at American—granted I was only there for three quarters of the year,” Murali passionately expressed.

     On that note, previous members of the track team have expressed their desire to continue doing track, but some were discouraged to join because of COVID-19; however, to those planning on joining during COVID-19 or in any future season of track, Murali has one more thing to say.

     “Important tip I’d give: Attend the conditionings! Just because you’re Usain Bolt doesn’t mean you can get on the team at tryouts. Conditionings are like an excuse for the coaches to scout who would be most qualified.”

The first and last Boys 4x100m relay race of American’s track team’s 2019-2020 track season prior to the cancellation of the spring sports season that year. Ryan Arakal (10), who is not in the photo, expressed, “I originally wanted to do track before the coronavirus pandemic. I loved the hype of the events we had even though we only did two last year. Those plans never changed; I am still going to do track this year if everything goes the way I want it to.”

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