It’s been a long road back to the track, and the Wallkill boys’ and girls’ indoor track team isn’t there yet.
They were supposed to be on Saturday with a scheduled home meet against Marlboro and Kingston on the Panthers’ track, but all the section’s track meets were canceled.
That reduces the Panthers’ season to three meets but gives them another week to get their legs under them, as coach Leo Sladewski looks to ease his athletes back into a sense of normalcy.
“It appears many of our athletes have some work to do to get back in shape,” Sladewski said.
The boys’ team has lost its state qualifying high jumper Anthony Nelson, along with sprinter Romaine Bird. The Panthers finished second in Section 9 Class A last year, while the girls, who lost Samantha Rodriguez, finished 11th in the section last year.
The boys will return Louis Martinez, who finished fifth in the pole vault at last year’s state indoor championships before the spring season was shut down. They’ll be no trip to indoor states this season as the New York State Public High School Athletic Association canceled winter state championships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He has a shot in the spring unless those meets are canceled, as well.
The Panthers also return distance runners Luke Diemoz and Jake Craypo.
The girls’ team will return high jumper Sera Greiring and hurdler Ava Roper.
The boys’ team will welcome newcomer Cianan Reiter, a shot-put thrower, and jumper/sprinter Grace Winchell will join the girls’ team.
The first goal is getting the runners back into shape, and with only three meets remaining, and even though there’s a 45-day break between the end of winter track and the planned start of spring track, the Panthers are preparing for the spring.
And they’re going to have to do that preparation in the cold, as all meets are outside as the Gillis Field House at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point is unavailable to Section 9 due to the COVID-10 pandemic.
“Having outdoor meets this winter will definitely be very different, but at least it will give our athletes an opportunity to compete,” Sladewski said.