Monday, January 18, 2021

MSU XC, Track & Field programs cope with another weird season

November 30, 2020
Runners in the women's 6000 meter race at the Spartan Invitational cross-country meet at Forest Akers Golf Course on September 13, 2019. MSU women's cross country took every spot in the top five.
Runners in the women's 6000 meter race at the Spartan Invitational cross-country meet at Forest Akers Golf Course on September 13, 2019. MSU women's cross country took every spot in the top five. —
Photo by Connor Desilets | The State News

Morgan Beadlescomb remembers when his track season got taken away.

They were about to wake up the following morning, ready to compete at the NCAA Division I Indoor Track & Field Championships. On Saturday, Nov. 14, Beadlescomb finally got back in the competition in an open race, albeit unaffiliated with MSU.

"I’m really pumped, it’s gonna be a great rust buster that's for sure," Beadlescomb said prior to the race. "It’ll be 8 months exactly from when track nationals were supposed to happen. It’s been that long since I’ve really been able to race."

He and his teammates with MSU's Track & Field and Cross Country programs didn't have a spring or fall season.

No NCAA sanctioned competition, and while the MHSAA and other Division-I programs ran in competition, MSU didn't.

Their athletes just ran with each other.

Practices look different. Each run accompanied by the ever so familiar GPS watches, rattles of feet on pavement or dirt, and a heavy breath — but it's still odd.

There aren't any races for them to run in their green and white-clad singlets and, while maybe not as loud and ravaging as those in Spartan Stadium, there aren't any fans to watch, support and cheer on the athletes of these two programs either.

What MSU Track and Cross Country head coach Walt Drenth said, "historically has been a pretty close group," can't get dinner in large groups, can't gather socially.

"We’re always talking, we’re always texting and having zoom meetings about how we stay connected," Beadlescomb said. "Most of it is, we play video games together. I hang out with people in my pod, but that's about the extent of it."

By nature, the sport of running is lonely. Often times people choose to run on their own for many reasons, for peace, for exercise.

But Division-I runners want to compete.

"Many of the college athletes come here to be really good and so I think for our top athletes, that goal hasn’t changed. They want to be highly competitive," Drenth said. "It’s not easy but we’re meeting for practice, we’re having hard workouts, we’ve done all. They still have to get better. Wherever you're at you are always striving to improve so I think that element hasn’t changed. I think it's really difficult for the kids that they like to run, they’re competitive but this is sort of the end, the college part of it is sort of the end in terms of their vision running. I think that some of them have had a hard time staying locked in."

It's not easy. Athletes must stay outside and can't get into groups at the indoor track on campus.

Some of the distance runners got to go down to Terra Haute for the Nov. 14 race. Beadlescomb said it went well, running against top college and pro runners usually help.


But practices and the team still have to be apart.

"It’s really difficult to separate," the senior and NCAA All-American said. "It's really difficult to stay joined as a whole team and stay connected when you don’t have that ability to really see each other in person."

Beadlescomb, like all of his teammates, practices in a pod — a group that is similar in living situation to him — to limit the chances of someone contracting the coronavirus.

"I just really want to point out how tough every athlete has been at MSU and how tough it's been for all of us and how we’ve all done so well to get through it, you know. Be safe, we haven’t really complained too much we’ve just kind of done what we’re told," Beadlescomb said.

Drenth said that while competition isn't in the cards now, that a proposal for track's indoor and outdoor seasons is in the cards and that the NCAA Division-I cross country championships will happen in late spring.

"I think that having this break away from competition has really shown us how much we value the sport itself, we’re not just in it for competition and we’re not just in it for whatever 'glamour’ there is in being a collegiate track athlete," the senior, Beadlescomb, joked.

"I think it's really important to point out (during the pandemic) that we have a great group that's really invested."


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