Apr 9, 2021 | SPORTS | By Zeke Lloyd | Illustration by Bibi Powers

Track captain Sam Rodriguez ’22 has recently started to train with a javelin. The team, as of now, has no person who officially competes in this event. Rodriguez likely won’t throw a javelin this season, but with fewer meets and more practices, there is ample time to work on the skill.

This extra time to train (on more traditional events in addition to eccentric ones) is a product of the pandemic. The other major impacts of COVID-19 are not so positive, though. Not only are the number of meets this season limited, but their locations are also confined to cities within Colorado.

“Being the only D3 school in the surrounding area, we race exclusively against D2 and D1,” Rodriguez said. “It can be tough.”

In late March, the team traveled twice to the home of Division II opponent Colorado State University at Pueblo. The divisional difference was not the only obstacle facing the team. “For our sophomores and our first-years, that was their first collegiate track meet,” Rodriguez said. “To me, this is the second season.”

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, there was a hopeful tone in voice of the junior captain. While other teams have faced quarantines, delays, and even cancellations from COVID-19 exposures, Rodriguez is vocal about how grateful he is for the chance to participate in his sport at all.

“People are so happy to be out there, there has been a lot of emphasis [on that], we very well could not have had this season and people could have gotten COVID,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been given these opportunities. Let’s make use of that.”

Rodriguez’s attitude is indicative of all leadership on the team. Other upperclassmen have encouraged younger athletes. Some have even gone a step further; they have inspired a sense of team culture.

“Mar Jackson, who is our captain for the jumpers, I think honestly has done an amazing job keeping us informed, keeping us excited to go to practice every day, and keeping up the team culture,” April Kwan ’24 said. “[Mar] really makes the effort to be friends with all of us and reach out beyond track.”

Captains like Rodriguez and Jackson have worked hard to bring the team together despite the pandemic. The team is able to go on long runs together, in addition to spending time united virtually on track-dedicated Zoom events. Kwan has found other ways to meet new people.

“I feel like I was really lucky because I knew a lot of the freshmen going into it and we were friends before the season,” Kwan said. “We found each other through classes and through passing. I was really fortunate to have that going into the season.”

Kwan went on to express how supportive the team has been, even outside of the first-year class.

“I’m the only high jumper but I’ll see a few of my teammates sitting right by me keeping me company,” Kwan said. “It’s really sweet of them to do.”

A sense of loyalty and dedication seems common in the team.

“Everyone is super dedicated, that’s one thing I have been trying to emphasize especially on our team,” Rodriguez said. “Dedicate yourself to the sport. While you’re here, give it your all.”

Rodriguez’s sentiment manifested itself in the team’s second meet.

“People settled in, [they] realized where they’re at. And [they] set goals based on where they know they’re at,” Rodriguez said.

With the experience of a meet under their belts, the team also felt a new sense of confidence. “It can be hard to improve in a week. I think a lot of it has to do with getting those nerves out,” Rodriguez said.

In the coming months, the team has a few different opportunities to demonstrate their abilities. Later this month there will be a two-day meet in Grand Junction. In addition, the team will likely send athletes to competitions in both Nebraska and at Air Force.

In late April, Texas will be hosting the first stage of the post season. Rodriguez is confident about how the team will perform. “I think we’ll have some qualifiers for nationals,” Rodriguez said.

The culture of the team appears not to be shaken by the trials of the past year. The sense of excited anticipation for years to come is not lost on Kwan: “As a freshman it is all so new and exciting to me. I am just really excited to see where this goes and where it progresses,” she said.

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