NJ T&F Community Reacts To Huge Changes For Indoor Season

The big news that broke earlier today when the NJSIAA announced it was pushing back the start of the indoor track and field season and eliminating all state championship meets created quite a stir around the NJ track and field community.  

To recap, in the NJSIAAs release it outlined its plan for 2021 indoor sports season amidst the surging COVID-19 cases in New Jersey, and the further restrictions placed by NJ Governor Phil Murphy for crowds at sporting events.

The NJSIAA has pushed back the start of the winter track and field season to Feb, 16th, and there will be no state meets.

Furthermore, the NJSIAA will not permit indoor meets to consist of more than two teams, and traveling out of state to compete is prohibited.

Bill Bruno, the NJSIAA Track and Field Tournament Director, said any kind of season, no matter how it looks, is better than not having any season. 

"Be grateful for what we had during XC and the new winter schedule,'' said Bruno. "I know it is not perfect, but it;s certainly better than last spring (when the season was cancelled).'' 

NJ MileSplit reached out to several coaches from around the state to get their thoughts on the state's new plan for the indoor season. 

Here's What They Had To Say...

Princeton boys coach Ben Samara -

"As the pandemic worsens, our thoughts are first and foremost with the safety of our kids and their families. When I talk to our athletes, the number one thing I hear has nothing to do with competition. It's about their desire to simply be together. This pandemic has really highlighted the social-emotional benefits of athletics, specifically high school sports, and I believe that the NJSIAA's decision will give us a greater chance of being able to be together in a safe environment, avoiding some of the harshest outdoor weather and allowing us to hopefully roll seamlessly into a productive spring season."

Lakeland girls coach Damiano Conforti- 

"While I am upset over the start date change and loss of state meets, I understand the logic behind it. The loss of spring season was hard on all athletes and coaches, so I am happy that the NJSIAA is trying to make something happen in these crazy times that we are dealing with now.''

Highland Regional boys coach Pat Donnelly- 

"I was a little upset to hear of the restrictions placed on this upcoming Indoor season, especially with it being one of the few chances left to compete for some of our very talented Seniors in sprints, distance, jumps and throws. These Seniors are being asked to sacrifice a lot. But I understand, and I think they understand too, that these are necessary precautions being taken by the state to help bring normalcy back to NJ Track & Field and our lives in general. These are not normal times and we have to adapt for the greater good. Fortunately, I have no doubt that our athletes at Highland, who showed great dedication and resiliency during the Summer and Fall, will train within the rules of the state and be as prepared as possible for whatever chances they get in this shortened season. I believe we will see once again which athletes trained when no one was watching and which did not. I trust our athletes to land on the right side of that question.''

Christian Brothers Academy coach Karl Torchia -

"Right now it sounds like a smart idea to start the season a little later. It seems like COVID-19 is surging again. I wish we could start outside practices a little sooner (maybe Jan. 1) but at least it looks like we are going to get a season in for these kids. It makes it hard for the senior athletes that aren't distance kids to pick colleges. And hard for colleges to recruit non distance runners. XC helped the distance kids. Colleges can only look at the non-distance kids first 2 and a half years of competitions. Kids get stronger and more mature and the college's haven't been able to see that. I feel for all these senior athletes that are trying to show colleges what they can do. There isn't much anyone can do. The state is doing their best and we all have to adapt the best we can."

Hunterdon Central coach Jon DeLisle -

''While I certainly understand the precautions and I appreciate the NJSIAA's efforts to give our kids a season, I am disappointed about the lack of a post-season. When there are no opportunities to win team titles, it is tricky for programs who focus on developing the team-first mentality. I would like to see some creative problem-solving so that the best student-athletes and teams in the state get a chance to experience state titles.''

Old Bridge boys coach Jack Campbell

"We have been through this before. We need to continue to put our noses to the grindstone and put the work in to be as successful as we can be when  the calendar hits February,  March, April and beyond, we want to again be as prepared as we can be"

South Brunswick girls coach Stefan Moorhead  - 

"I think it's for the best that the state decided to delay the start of the season, since all the indicators regarding the virus seem to be going in the wrong direction right now. It's disappointing to not start when we usually do, but I think starting in February gives us a better chance tohave some type of season. I am hoping by February that we might be allowedt o have some type of smaller indoor meets, even if they are only showcase-type events for top athletes. It is definitely disappointing to not have the possibility of state meets, but at the same time, we know what it is like to lose an entire season after what happened last spring, so I will be happy if we at least get something this winter. Like I told the team in a zoom meeting last week, any track is better than no track! At the very least, we will treat it as a good opportunity to train, develop our team, and make progress for spring track, when hopefully the season will be more like what we are used to.''

RBC coach Rob DeFilippis -

"Hoping they let us run practices similar to summer. It makes no sense to turn us off completely here until February. Keeping kids active and outside can only be a positive today.''

Westfield boys coach Chris Tafelski -

"I'm not surprised at today's announcement, given what's been happening around the country and NJ in the last few months. Of course I would like to see us have a normal season, but the nature of the indoor season just doesn't make that possible. I think our athletes know that. The challenge now is to keep our kids positive and moving forward so our teams can be prepared for February through June. A lot of states operate on that schedule in a normal year, so now is the time for us in NJ to take a page from successful programs in those states and apply it to our own teams. Our coaching staff and our senior leaders will pull together to make that happen.''

Ridge boys coach Nicole Gilhuley - 

"While I understand the cases are rising and they want to keep athletes safe, I'm still disappointed, especially that practices are pushed back.  Our sport is unique in the fact that we can accomplish a significant amount outside during December and January.  I fully anticipated meets being significantly different so that comes as less as a surprise.  There is no way the classic state meets at the bubble would possible this year. However, I think training and practicing even without competition has helped the athletes both physically and mentally.  I also was hoping there would still be some form of an end of season championship for the athletes to look forward to.  I think the top athletes especially thrive on seeing what they can do against the top competition in their events.''

West Windsor-Plainsboro North Coach Brian Gould-
"We had been talking about this a bit at a conference level. I think it makes sense, with the case surges, holidays, travel and all. It's disappointing for sure but we have waited so long, at this point the worst thing we can do is start only to have to stop again. Continuity is important in our sport. Not to mention there would have been a large downtime during Season 3.''

Mendham coach Roy Hamblen -

"It makes it tough for the athletes. The Winter Season will turn into pre-season Training for Spring. Which for training purposes isn't necessarily a bad thing. But the meets are what makes it fun for the kids and keeps them focused. It's asking a lot from a high school kid to train on their own throughout December and January and keep focused. It will definitely impact Spring Track since so much of track and field is physical training as opposed to skill development like most other sports.''

Rahway coach Leon Bunion-

"I'm just grateful for the opportunity to work with my athletes and create memories. An abbreviated season is better than no season at all. As we proved in the cross country season, NJ's athletes, coaches, and supporters are resilient. If they give us lemons we will make lemonade. We will make the best of any situation, including this one. Hopefully by the time season 2A begins, there will be adjustments to the executive orders that will allow us to create a somewhat competitive competition season where athletes can obtain verifiable performances.''

Pope John coach Brian Corcoran- 

"Based on the current COVID conditions, it was inevitable. I expected a delay until at least January. The NJSIAA made the correct decision in a delayed start. Based on the new start date, I would prefer to have the spring season start in February like southern states and allow competitions in early March. Basically combine indoor and outdoor into one season. Then have championships in the spring time. Maybe even an outdoor state relay meet.''

Neptune coach Dawn Bowles

"I'm glad for the kids that we will still have a season, and I knew it was going to be cut short but to only be able to train for two weeks, then start running in a meet is a bit nerve-wracking. For the distance runners who ran XC, they should be fine, but for the sprinters who haven't run since last indoor season, it will definitely be a nerve-wracking.''