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Carroll County runners doing what they can to stay sharp, in shape during coronavirus pandemic

Winters Mill distance runner Kathryn Hopkins is still running six days a week during the school closure due to the COVID-19 emergency.
Winters Mill distance runner Kathryn Hopkins is still running six days a week during the school closure due to the COVID-19 emergency. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Kathryn Hopkins put together a standout indoor track winter season at Winters Mill High School, and the junior said she was looking forward to building on that this spring.

Same goes for Century’s Hayden Hebert, a fellow junior who, like Hopkins, also shined in cross country back in the fall.

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Carroll County’s distance runners, along with the rest of their track and field cohorts, were met with a collective challenge last month when the coronavirus pandemic resulted in school being canceled and sports being wiped out.

Schools are closed through May 15, and the likelihood of spring sports resuming is bleak. But county runners are still doing their best to stay sharp, and in shape.

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“It was pretty upsetting, because I think I probably could have done a lot in the spring season,” Hopkins said. “But it’s still an opportunity to keep training and prepare for cross country.”

Hopkins won regional and state championships in the winter when she took first in the 3,200-meter run at the Class 2A West and 2A state meets. Her win at states, in 11 minutes, 25.36 seconds, was a personal record, according to athletic.net.

Hopkins took second in the 3,200 at the Carroll County Athletic League meet, where she also finished runner-up in the 1,600.

Last fall, Hopkins ran second at the CCAL cross country meet, third at regionals, and second at states.

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The Times first-team all-county runner said not being able to practice with Winters Mill hasn’t been ideal, but she’s doing what she can to remain active.

“I still run six days a week, but I have taken more time to do strength training and core stuff too,” Hopkins said. “Just to keep injury prevention.”

Hopkins said she rests on Sundays, but gets in 30 or more miles each week, and she figures that number will keep going up as the summer months approach.

“If we were with the team, we’d probably do two workouts a week but I’m just doing one a week right now,” she said. “Just a little bit less.”

Meanwhile, Hebert said he is running 3-4 miles per day, and he tries to get outside five days a week. High school tracks might not be the best place to train right now, but Hebert said he tries to visit local trails so he can get into the woods for his runs.

The reigning Times Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year was runner-up at the county and 2A West meets last fall, and sixth at the 2A state meet. He won the 3,200 county title for indoor track and was second in the state, while running third in the 1,600 at regions and states.

Like Hopkins, Hebert said he’s “bummed” about the possibility of no spring sports, but he’s doing what he can to stay positive. High school stadium tracks aren’t the place to be right now for local runners, but Hebert said he has taken to some nearby trails so he can get into the woods to run.

“I’m just trying to keep up my miles, keep my endurance going,” he said. “So I don’t get out of shape over this long break. I need to stay strong and look forward to the next time I get to compete.”

Century's Hayden Hebert competes in the boys 3200 meter run during the 2A West regional indoor track meet at Hagerstown Community College on Saturday, Feb. 1.
Century's Hayden Hebert competes in the boys 3200 meter run during the 2A West regional indoor track meet at Hagerstown Community College on Saturday, Feb. 1. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Liberty track coach Amanda Milewski, who also coaches cross country at Carroll Community College, said she has been emailing her Lions runners workouts to do twice each week. Milewski said being able to run, regardless of the fate of a spring season, sets up distance athletes well for summertime and the following cross country season.

“I wanted to remain hopeful in this situation,” Milewski said. “Any time school closures are extended, to me, it’s still like a little bit of a glimmer of hope. Maybe there will be something; I’m trying to remain optimistic.”

Time away from daily practices and weekend meets might also give runners an extra period to rest nagging injuries. And teammates are using their cellphones and other devices to stay in touch and do strength and conditioning workouts together.

Hopkins said she runs with her sister Makenzie, a former Times Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, but she’ll be looking to get some rest as well before cranking things up again for the summer.

She said she was excited about trying to lower her long-distance times on the track this spring, but it’s looking more like Hopkins’ next challenge will be out on a cross country course.

“I don’t feel the pressure to be doing as much speed stuff and constantly running a lot [every] day, because there are no meets,” she said. “It’s really just about staying in shape.”

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