The Centennial Conference announced over the summer their plans for a full return to fall and winter sports heading into the 2021-2022 academic year. The conference had already approved schools to return to spring athletics, a test to determine if the conference can move forward into relaunching Centennial Athletics.
With only a few hiccups, spring Muhlenberg sports were able to make a full return last semester, including the men’s and women’s track and field teams.
Both teams are entering their first full winter preseason in two years. Their previous indoor season had been canceled due to the Centennial Conference decision to postpone winter athletics throughout the conference.
Men’s track and field is returning this fall boasting hopeful aspirations, placing fourth overall in the Centennial Conference championship. While the women’s team looks forward to needed improvements after placing bottom half, sixth, at the conference championships.
For many returning athletes under Head Coach Brad Hackett, being able to hit the track again is much needed. “I’m really excited to get started again as we have not only some new members but also a lot of experienced athletes. I think we will be competitive,” said jumper John Panny ‘23.
Although some of the returning juniors and seniors have prior indoor track experience, the majority of both rosters are made up of underclassmen who have not yet competed inside of Deitrich Field House. Fellow jumper Jacob Brick ‘24 is excited to finally jump into indoor track. “It feels absolutely amazing to be back! I am so glad I am able to be with my team once again after such a long time away after an anything but normal season.”
The Mules are still aware of the ongoing problems when it comes to COVID and ensuring athletes’ health. Indoor practices require athletes to wear masks in order to stay compliant with COVID regulations.
They still mandate social distancing in most practice settings, and are still making sure their equipment is constantly cleaned and sanitized after each practice.
“In regards to protocols carried over from last year, we are making sure to clean equipment after we use it, maintaining social distance both inside and outside, wearing masks indoors even while working out as well as a few other things that remain in place to keep us and our school community safe,” Brick said.
With both indoor and outdoor seasons back-to-back, there is not much room to recoup for athletes who participate in both sports. When the men’s and women’s track and field teams open their first invitational entitled the Fast Time Before Finals Meet on Dec. 4th at Lehigh University, they have little amount of breakage between meets until their season closer on May 16.
In order to manage their mental and physical health, members of the track team must take care of their bodies for the grueling season. “Because track is strenuous to the body, my main focus right now is staying healthy and recovering as best as possible. This includes seeing the trainer, rehab, icing, eating properly and most importantly sleeping,” said Panny. “Overall, slowly getting back into form while staying healthy is the key to properly preparing for the next seven months—or from now till May.”
Hackett has also reminded his teams to prepare for the long stretch ahead. A lot of his training and practices focus upon ensuring his players are conditioned to make it to May, and securing Centennial Conference championships in both the indoor and outdoor seasons.
“He [Hackett] has a great coaching staff who preaches the same ideas: focusing on the mind, health and learning proper body mechanics in order to succeed—and of course having fun while doing so,” said Panny.
For both Panny and Brick, they both personally want to succeed and “PR” (personal record) in their respective events, “I want to make it as far as possible to the national meet, and although it’s an overarching task, I think setting standards and goals like this is important for success,” said Panny. For Brick, “My largest goal that I currently have is to jump 40 or more feet in the triple jump, my main event. Last year I jumped [39 feet and 3 inches], so I’m close and excited to reach my goal by the end of the season with hard work and dedication.”