Lehigh men’s track and field competes against Lafayette in a meet last year. Feb. 21, 2021 will be the first time the track and field team has had a meet in almost a year due to the impact of COVID-19. (Courtesy of Lehigh Sports)

Men’s and women’s track and field ready to kick off 2021 season

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March 1, 2020, was the last time the men’s and women’s track teams had a meet. Both teams will begin their long-awaited seasons against Bucknell on Feb. 21.

Like all other collegiate sports, there are many obstacles that the track teams will continue to face over the course of the season. In addition to not being able to practice as an entire team, alterations include constantly sanitizing shared spaces and limiting interactions to pods of just a few teammates. 

Sunday’s meet against the Bison will mark the first time the team is all under one roof since before the pandemic. Due to the number of people on the team, they haven’t been able to practice all together at any point. 

Athletes are divided into pods based on their events and who they live with. This organization requires sizable planning between the student-athletes and coaching staff, but sophomore sprinter Zach Delone said the communication has been well-executed.

“There’s a schedule that we have to look at for practice times, and they have been answering everyone’s questions, so we don’t run into any communication issues, both among athletes and coaches,” Delone said. 

The communication that Delone mentioned has already played a key role in this unprecedented season. On Feb.9, the team went on pause due to positive COVID-19 cases within the program, but resumed as soon they completed contract tracing. 

When a team has to pause, finding ways to stay in shape and ready for competition can be challenging. 

Senior long-distance runner Giavanna Tabbachino said the hardest part is not having a way to run indoors at home. 

“When we’re on lockdown, we can’t even go for runs by ourselves,” Tabbachino said. “The only way to really get better at running is to go for runs. A week off in the middle of a training cycle can throw off the whole thing. If you take a week off from anything you’re doing consistently, it’s going to mess you up a little bit.” 

Communication between coaches and their athletes has also had to change to better fit a world in which anxiety is already running high. 

Assistant coach Khayla Atte said she has changed her coaching style based on feel instead of times. 

“I’ve noticed that they already have high anxiety, and if I start yelling times, it’s only going to make it worse,” Atte said.  “They’re actually responding to that pretty well. You have to learn to be really creative and really flexible all at the same time. If I show a deep level of hesitation or have a lot of anxiety as opposed to being steady and sure, it’s like a trickle-down effect. I want them to feel confident and to keep everyone’s anxiety manageable, if that’s even possible right now.”

The depressive nature of day-long Zoom classes also has negative effects for athletes, Atte said.

Senior thrower Brianna Wanbaugh said because of these additional challenges to the season, keeping team morale high is a focus for this year.

“We try to stay positive as a whole team,” Wanbaugh said “People try to put stuff in our track GroupMe, something funny, or a poll, to try to bring back the group camaraderie since we can’t physically do anything together.” 

Atte said because the season could be put on a pause at any given time, they are taking the season day-by-day, but that doesn’t mean certain meets don’t stick out on the calendar. 

“I’m always looking forward to our Le-Laf dual meet,” Wanbaugh said. “I don’t think the women have lost to them in a very long time, so that’s always a nice win. I’m also really excited to see some of my teammates compete really well. At the end of the day, we are athletes, and we did come to college to do track. People still have a lot of potential to do really great things, even though we haven’t had all the resources we’re used to.” 

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