I caught up this past week with the coaches at two of the three NCAA Division I programs in Kansas to learn a little more about how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected track and field recruiting this spring.
think one of the unfortunate by-products of losing the spring track and field
season is that high school seniors lost a final opportunity to catch a college
coach's eye. While the college teams had completed a majority of their
recruiting for next year, there is always room for the late-bloomers.
That said, the following conversation provides hope that this year's high school seniors can still find a spot at the college of their choice.
Special thanks to head coaches Stanley Redwine at the University of Kansas; and Cliff Rovelto at Kansas State University for taking the time to answer my questions.
Here we go:
I assume that you were at the Division I indoor track and field championships when the decision came down to cancel that meet as well as the spring outdoor season. Tell me what you remember about that.
Redwine: There was a lot of confusion. My first concern was the safety of our athletes and staff. The athletes were ready to compete but we were all uncertain of the full effects of the virus. At the time I wasn't sure about the NCAA's decision, but now I totally agree with the decision.
Rovelto: I was tremendously disappointed for our six student-athletes that were there to compete. Saying this however, I was not really surprised. I had doubts that this competition would take place even before we arrived in Albuquerque.
How has the pandemic affected spring recruiting for you and your staff?
Redwine: Not being able to watch outdoor meets has affected everyone. Recruits from out of state have decided to stay local. The good thing for us is that we did 85% of our recruiting earlier.
Rovelto: For 2020-2021 the majority of our aid had already been committed. The largest impact is not being able to get out and see and meet athletes we may not have had contact with previously. Most definitely future recruiting efforts will be impacted due to the inability to see athletes compete this spring and summer.
Many high school athletes may be viewing the lost season as a missed, final chance to impress college coaches. What's the reality? In other words, how much of recruiting comes down to the spring season of the senior year, and how many athletes would you realistically be recruiting based on their senior season?
Redwine: There are always quality senior recruits trying to impress coaches in their final season. We look for those athletes, and unfortunately that opportunity has been taken away.
Rovelto: I can't speak for other institutions, but for us almost all of our recruiting for any given year is done prior to the spring track season. Having said this however, there typically are a couple of athletes that become more prevalent on our radar during their senior year.
What words of advice can you share for a high school athlete who may not have been recruited yet, but thinks they have what it takes to compete at the college level? Is it worthwhile for them to make contact with college coaches at this point? And if so, how do they do that - phone, email, text message or something else?
Redwine: I would advise them to email the coach and give the coach a running resume. If they have selected a university for academic reasons, they should ask to try out for the team.
Rovelto: By all means, reach out to programs you have interest in considering. You just have to keep in mind that programs may not have much financial aid available this late in the process and they may have roster limits that prevent them from adding additional athletes.
Last question...it's probably unusual for you to have as much free time as you may have at this time of year. What are you doing with your extra time these days? Are you making time for some fun?
Redwine: During the weekdays I'm busier now than before. The absence from physically coaching athletes has given me more time to catch up on everything else. I have more zoom meetings than ever. I regularly communicate with the athletes and coaches. I call the incoming athletes and make sure their transition to KU is smooth. Weekends are odd not having meets, but I mostly stay at home doing lawn work. I wish that I was fishing.
Rovelto: I have been cleaning out files from 40 plus years of coaching. It's amazing how much material -- books, tapes, articles, workouts, data -- you can accumulate in four decades.
I've enjoyed in previous weeks looking back at great performances in Kansas high school track and field history. Each week, I've tried to capture a sampling of efforts that caught my eye.
Five years ago this week, Cole Murphy of Olathe North flew around the track to win the 400 meter dash at the Seaman Relays in a time of 48.83.
At the same meet, there was a great distance battle between eventual state champions. Olpe's Kyler True (class 2A) won the 800 in 1:55.82, while Michael Melgares of Manhattan (6A) won the 3200 in 9:26.37. Earlier in the meet, the two matched up in the 1600, where Melgares (4:17.40) nipped True (4:18.88).
But the Leavenworth Pioneers walked away pretty proud from that meet. They had three remarkable performances in the field events: Willie Morrison won the shot put (66-1.25), and Jared Belardo won the long jump (23-2) and triple jump (45-10.5). In the girls' meet, freshman Aarika Lister - who would later win five sprint titles in her high school career - swept the 100 and 200 that night in 12.00 and 25.31
Also five years ago, Girard sophomore Cailie Logue clocked 5:02.21 to win her team's home invitational over Arma Northeast's Kaylee Bogina, who finished in 5:07.44. Both have since earned NCAA All American honors, Logue in Division I cross country, and Bogina in Division II track and field.
Ten years ago this week, Topeka West freshman Machala Wesley swept the 100 and 200 at Seaman with times of 11.80 and 24.42, and Shawnee Mission Northwest's Erica Brand won the discus at the same meet with a toss of 154-6.
Perhaps the best sprint race this week 10 years ago happened at the Shawnee Heights Invitational, where Austin Willis of Shawnee Heights won in 10.44 over Rashawn Baker of Highland Park (10.59) and Malcolm Berry of Bishop Miege (10.66).
Willis also won the 200 that day, clocking 22.09.
Here are three more great performances that happened this week:
Do you have ideas that we can write about in the future -- perhaps catching up with athletes or performances past? Send your ideas to melgares@LetsGoRun.com.