The key to becoming a great runner comes from years of progression. For many competitive runners, high school track is a pivotal part of that progression (it certainly was for me). More important than the physical progression is the social bonding that high school athletes get out of their sports. While high schoolers are rightfully devastated about missed proms and graduations, high school track athletes would give anything to climb in a bus and spend hours by the track drinking Gatorade, trying not to get sunburnt, and chasing personal bests.
Olivia Perdices, coach of the SBHS Track and Field and Cross Country programs, answered a few questions about how the running Dons are coping with the lost season and how coaches are trying to support them.
You can support Santa Barbara High School Track and Field through the Run Solo Project.
Q. What guidance have you been given for the SB high track season? What capacity are you able to communicate and work with the team and the athletes?
Friday March 13 was our last day of regular classes. Since then there’s been no physical contact with the team. We left with the expectation that we would return to business as usual in three weeks, after the school district’s scheduled spring break. At that point we had run a couple of early season meets and had our sights set on league competition starting with some big invitationals and post season on the horizon.
We were trying to have kids train alone, but as close to a regular in season competition phase as possible. This was primarily through scripts we emailed to the group, a lot of Q and A through texts and DMs and video analysis of athletes in the more technical events.
By the end of March the decision was made to close schools for the duration of the year, in essence putting an end to any hopes of a spring season. We’re still emailing, texting, DMing, regularly with kids and parents, but with a little less urgency as we’ve shifted to an offseason phase and for most kids building into fall cross country or whatever other sports they may play.
Q. How have the athletes adapted to the season cancelations and not being able to come together as a team?
For most high school kids the social aspect of school and sports is huge. In that sense, it’s a big loss for them. The shared successes and failures on the field are big, but the time between sets, on the bus, and casual, goofy moments that you just don’t get training alone are most missed.
It’s the same for the coaches. We’re all very invested with these kids beyond athletics and into who they are as individuals. This investment is a lot tougher to convey in emails to kids and parents. Not being able to close things out in competition just leaves everyone unsatisfied.
There were so many kids just finding their place on the team and in the sport who hopefully will come back ready and hungry. The ones who were truly invested and on the verge of some big performance jumps are left guessing where the really would have measured up, which can be maddening. The ones my heart reall breaks for are the seniors. For most of them it’s their last chance to put on a uniform and represent something bigger than themselves in such a fashion. To have that taken away is a big hit. Add to that the other rites of passage they miss like prom and graduation and I’m at a loss as to what to say or do.
To their credit, most kids are adapting and handling things better than you’d expect. This group has been through a lot together with the fires, floods, mudslides and now this. They’re amazingly resilient and good at finding the positives to any situation.
You deal with a wide spectrum of athletes from freshman discovering the sport to seniors in their last season. What advice are you giving for their training right now and how are you guiding the ones with future seasons to be ready to compete when things do come back to normal?
More recently we’ve transitioned to a mindset of a long build to what we’re hoping is a full season of fall sports. For most kids that means getting ready for cross country, for some it means switching over to another sport, and the group who it’s probably hardest for are the ones who only compete in track and field.
For everyone it’s a lot longer off season than we’re used to and we’re trying to see the extra time as a positive. We’re encouraging kids to spend more time targeting things like strength, mobility and recovery that tend to get shortchanged during school and competition. For the track and field kids we are taking a step back and looking at weaknesses and technical changes. It’s a challenge without facilities and hands on coaching, but they’re finding a way.
We’ll be in a brand new stadium in the fall which is something that we’re definitely eying. With cross country we’re putting miles in the bank, but the focus right now is on enjoying the process and coming into the fall ready and hungry. More than anything, it’s for all of them to stay healthy, explore everything running has to offer and have fun with it.
Q. How can people support SB High XC and Track?
Santa Barbara has a great running community on so many levels and through so many avenues and it’s great for the Dons to be a part of that.
Right now we’re teamed up with several other schools and clubs on the Run Solo Project. It’s a four week series of virtual 5Ks that start next week. Anyone can sign up and choose Santa Barbara HS when they register for a portion of their entry fee to be donated to the Cross Country team. Sign up Here!