The track at Newberg High School – normally filled to the brim with the hustle and bustle of athletes sprinting, throwing and jumping – is empty. As the weather warms and the sunlight hits the tarmac all the more frequently, nobody is there to soak it up.
Like its counterparts in other sports, the Newberg High School track and field teams are barred from practicing until at least March 31 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation presents a unique challenge for NHS coach Brandon Ramey and company as athletes try to find time to train on their own and away from other people.
"In 20 years of coaching, I've never seen anything like this," Ramey said. "We've had cancellations and postponements before, but nothing like this. The unknown is making us wonder what the season will be like, if there will be a season at all, or what. It's been hard for the kids who are trying to do workouts on their own and stay in shape in case we do get back.
"It's tough for the seniors. I feel especially bad for them. Wednesday was supposed to be our first meet for their senior season and so many of them have worked so hard to get to this point."
Ramey is awaiting further guidance from the OSAA on when practices can resume and when meets might be rescheduled. He expects the start of the season will be delayed even further – well into April – and worries a complete cancellation could be in the cards.
The plan for now is to push everything back and focus primarily on the district meets on the schedule, which start later in the season. Invitationals might not be in the cards at all, including the Chehalem Track and Field Classic scheduled for April at NHS.
"We are outdoors, so that might make a difference," Ramey said. "I don't really know if track will be different than other sports because the people at the top of the chain don't know. I'm just telling the kids to remain positive and deal with this as it comes, because right now there's just not a lot known out there."
Ramey wanted to make sure to laud some of the athletes on the team who may not see the field for their junior and senior seasons. On the girls' side, the Tigers are led by seniors Grace Umfleet in the 400 and 200, Rilee Carstensen in the hurdles, Chloe Spalding in the high jump and 800, and a duo of Abby Hein and Kendall McKibbon in the distance events. Both Umfleet and Carstensen lead the girls' relay team as well.
"All those girls have been with us for four years and they're really looking forward to this season as their opportunity to go out as a group," Ramey said. "They're hoping to compete for a district and state title."
The boys are led by seniors Jared LaPointe and Harrison Hess in the throwing events, along with a slew of other talented athletes in the junior, sophomore and freshman class. Both Tiger teams expected to compete for a district title and the girls even had a state placement on their minds as the season approached.
"Both those throwers will be looking to compete at the state meet," Ramey said of Hess and LaPointe. "We have a good batch of juniors in a lot of our other events as well. We have talented sprinters and Asher Tatsumi will lead the way on the distance side. We have some quality jumpers as well and it's a solid team overall."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.