Local runners feel sting of track shutdown


Luke Bane got cheated by fate.

The long distance runner for Seymour High School’s track and field team was hopeful to the last, committed enough to the possibility of competition this spring that every day, he ran out the door of his home and kept up challenging workouts.

After school was shut down due to COVID-19 , the coronavirus, officials announced in-building classes might resume May 1 and a shorter, condensed spring sports season could follow.

Unlike vaulters or high jumpers who need equipment and facilities like poles, pits and runways to practice effectively, runners such as Bane who specialize in the 1,600 or 3,200 meters can work out the way adults do who compete in road races.

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No organized practices under coaches were allowed. No fields for baseball or softball, courts for tennis or the track were available, chained off. But as long as distance runners had shoes, they could go. Heck, the streets might have been safer with fewer people driving to work.

Then, earlier this month, Gov. Eric Holcomb pulled the plug on hope.

Bane, who maintained his condition through the winter, was running every day, about 40 miles a week, mixing longer runs of 8 miles with repeats of shorter distances at higher tempo. Mostly, he gathered with some of the other Owls, occasionally on his own. The mornings were cooler, so the best time to run was 9 or 10 a.m.

Just give me a season, he thought.

Usually, runners on the track, or even in cross country, run in bunches, taking turns in the lead, letting the other guy take a turn breaking the wind. Doing these virus-inspired workouts with others, though, Bane said they tried to stay 6 feet apart as they inhaled and exhaled, a somewhat odd style of social distancing.

“I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life,” Bane said.

Senior year is supposed to be the capstone of high school, the last vamp-till-ready step from sheltered home life to real life, going on to work, to college, to something new.

For the majority of sports participants, senior year is the end. Only a fraction of high school athletes get the chance, or in sometimes not even the desire, to continue with a sport in college.

Grace Garland, a senior at Brownstown Central High School, was diligent keeping up with eLearning homework but also running homework, about 20 miles a week, mostly on her own. Her personal best in the 1,600 meters was 6:04 last year, and her time target for this season was obvious — break 6 minutes.

“That would be a major goal,” Garland said.

Outsiders don’t always recognize that even on teams classified as individual sports, the brotherhood and sisterhood is an element in the big picture. Friendships last as long as best times.

Garland ran without other members of the Braves but said it wasn’t the same.

“It’s not as fun as with my teammates,” Garland said. “You’ve got to make yourself go out.”

Just as Holcomb’s decision on schools spiked the season, Bane sent his deposit to Indiana University for next year’s classes. He plans to study computer science but not run for the varsity cross country team, though maybe the club team.

Bane was motivated for these off-the-grid workouts by his last chance to run faster. His best time in the 3,200 is 10:42 seconds. Respectable. The time percolating in his head for this spring was 9:59, a whole other level of accomplishment.

“I was hoping to go under 10,” Bane said. “I really wanted to have a great season.”

Bane put in so much time running in recent months, despite the handicap of little coach guidance, he is not willing to surrender that time dream without a determined battle.

As part of the schedule of the season that will never happen, boys sectionals were on the calendar for May 21. That day, Bane plans to run a time trial chasing a personal best in the 3,200 on the Owls’ home track if it is open or elsewhere if it is not.

Bane received official word the season was canceled on a Thursday afternoon. Friday morning, he was out on the streets again running hard.

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