This winter is like no other for Carroll County indoor track.
It started Saturday with Century and Manchester Valley high schools hosting meets that involved every county team. It will continue through the end of the month at both locations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected indoor track, just as it has the other high school sports. But Carroll forges on, so here’s what to watch during the 2021.
The great outdoors
This season will be held outside in an effort to combat the spread of the coronavirus. For one, large gatherings are prohibited amid the pandemic. Secondly, with no nearby sites suitable to hold indoor meets, the county decided to try and have them take place outdoors.
Century and Man Valley are the hosts every Saturday, and Carroll teams are rotating to each site for meets. Century hosted Liberty and South Carroll on Saturday, while Manchester Valley held a quad-meet with Francis Scott Key, Westminster, and Winters Mill.
The Knights prepare for FSK and Westminster on Jan. 16, while the Mavericks get Liberty, South Carroll, and Winters Mill.
County officials are hoping for pleasant conditions on these Saturdays, with a target temperature of 50 degrees. Chilly conditions would likely force athletes to huddle for warmth, which goes against social distance and health guidelines amid the pandemic.
Decisions are expected to be made each week on Fridays as to whether the Saturday meets will take place. Weather permitting, of course.
Returning (and replacing) talent
Century won the boys and girls county championships last winter, and the Knights bring back all-county performers on both sides. But their teams are facing somewhat different outlooks.
Century’s boys lost four first-team selections to graduation in Chett Brunner, Tyler Dregely, Kevin Hackett, and Stephen Hurst. Brunner, the reigning Times Boys Athlete of the Year, won county, region, and state titles in shot put, and set a CCAL meet record last season.
Century distance runner Hayden Hebert, the 2019 Times Cross Country Runner of the Year, is participating at the club level this winter.
On the girls’ side, the Knights bring back first-team picks Jane Brewer (field) and Jasmine Stanton (sprints) but they graduated all-county selections Caroline Mastria (sprints) and Summer Morrison (mid-distance).
“We are looking to get a gauge on athletes and work to improve throughout this short season,” Century coach Dyron Johnson said via email.
Meanwhile, South Carroll’s girls won the Class 2A state meet title in 2020. The Cavaliers won’t have an official state championship meet this time around, but they do return all-county sprinter Madelyn Boyce, distance runner Kelsey Shekore, and pole vaulter Zelda Hirsch from last year’s squad.
SC coach Joe Murray said via email that standout distance runner Grace Siehler, who earned Times Athlete of the Year honors last winter, is recovering from an injury and won’t be competing during the indoor season.