The Lehigh men’s track and field team would normally spend the next week and a half working out final adjustments before the Patriot League Outdoor Championships.
Instead, the team’s plans to begin its outdoor season on March 21 at the Penn Challenge came to a halt when the Patriot League announced its decision to cancel all spring practices and competitions on March 12.
The Mountain Hawks ended their indoor season with a fourth-place finish in the Patriot League Finals, and were preparing to continue to build their momentum during the spring.
Sophomore Vincent Polignano said the cancellation left the team feeling disappointed and unfulfilled. Polignano said the runners had been looking forward to redemption at the Lehigh-Lafayette Dual meet — which the Hawks lost in an upset last year — as well events such as senior night and the Patriot League Outdoor Championships.
“It was definitely a shock and the feeling that we had unfinished business,” Polignano said. “It just feels like we didn’t get any closure.”
Unlike Polignano, Joey Kelly, ‘20, will not have the opportunity to finish his season next year.
Despite a successful winter season where he won a gold medal in the pole vault at the Patriot League Indoor Championships, Kelly hoped to accomplish more in the final months of the season, he said.
“In outdoors, you have a much better chance to qualify for Nationals,” Kelly said. “I had my eye set on that and had my eye set on the school record because I was so close to breaking it this year. Having these goals since freshman year, then having them taken away unexpectedly, is unreal.”
Assistant coach Todd Etters said the team is currently in the NCAA out-of-season training program and, as a result, communications between coaches and athletes are limited in accordance with NCAA regulations. Discussions are mainly focused on the well-being of athletes as they transition to their new lifestyles in quarantine, he said.
However, Etters said the team keeps in touch through weekly Zoom meetings and participates in a series of virtual bonding activities organized by team leaders.
“Honestly, I think (the athletes) have been doing a great job,” Etters said. “Last week, they did a trick shot contest. Basically, they filmed themselves doing some sort of a trick shot, posted it in their GroupMe and had a couple hours of funny videos.”
In addition to the weekly challenges, the athletes were also given workout routines to do at home.
Kelly said these training regimens, created by the team’s strength and conditioning coaching staff, are flexible and accommodate the minimal resources accessible to athletes in light of the closure of public tracks and gyms.
“They know the limitations, so they’re trying to design workouts using bookbags or water jugs to lift,” Kelly said. “They’re planning workouts that we can follow along and do outside, that we don’t necessarily need a track for.”
Polignano said he and his teammates have been working together to overcome some of the challenges of maintaining a fitness routine while separated from each other and their coaches.
The team’s large size can make it difficult to keep track of the ways runners are staying in shape at home, but Polignano created a solution.
“It’s definitely harder than some of the smaller teams to stay connected,” Polignano said. “I’ve started a Google Sheets where you can log on and say what workouts you’ve done, so we can stay connected and hold each other accountable athletically.”
Going forward, staying motivated will be one of the most significant obstacles the team will encounter.
“We only compete in the winter and spring, so not having a meet for eight or nine months makes it really difficult to get out there and get my base layer of training in — that’s where our group accountability measures play in,” Polignano said.
Despite their extended offseason, the Mountain Hawks hope to return next winter with renewed intensity.