The world of sports has mostly been put on hold since the breakout of COVID-19. There have been some international soccer games without fans, and the NBA appears to be gearing for a restart in Orlando, but even large events like the Olympics have been pushed back until next year.
- Mighty Creature Co.
- Little Wing Athletics out during a training session. In front is Mel Lawrence, followed by Madeline Strandemo, Collier Lawrence, Rebecca Mehra and coach Lauren Fleshman.
Closer to home, the USA Track and Field Olympic Trials were set to be held from June 19 to 28 in Eugene, but have been rescheduled for June 18 to 27 of 2021. Athletes who were training for the trials have had to make adjustments and reschedule around other things they had planned in life. For runners, the slightest shift in training can make a big difference. Here in Central Oregon, the members of Little Wing Athletics, a local elite running club, were prepared to have all six of its athletes compete at the trials. Now, they're looking ahead to 2021.
"We're training right now, but we don't really know what we're training for," says Little Wing coach Lauren Fleshman.
Fleshman says there are talks of other big meets happening in the fall, but no one knows for sure if they'll happen, or what they'll look like if they do. Those "warmup races" are huge opportunities to help runners prepare for the trials and keep in shape, so without them, athletes will have to adapt and almost start from scratch.
Madeline Strandemo, an athlete with Little Wing, was planning to compete in the 3,000 meter steeplechase, having previously performed the same run at the U.S. Championships.
"While I completely agree with the decision to postpone the Olympic Games and the Trials, at first, I couldn't help but feel really disappointed. For the past two years since I graduated, I've had my sights set on that event. I thought about it every day. It was the big, exciting goal that motivated me through tough training blocks, months of injury, and even doubts. So, when it was finally getting closer, and then was suddenly snatched away, it was very disheartening," says Strandemo. "But after a bit of settling, I've realized that for me personally, the postponement is actually a huge advantage. I think I can be even more competitive in June of 2021, so I'm excited to have another year to prepare!"
Summer will look a little different for Strandemo, with her returning back to a "base phase training," which are activities she would usually be doing in the fall. There is potential for some action at meets as fall begins, but that all depends on how COVID-19 progresses. She's prepared to see less competition this summer than normal.
"Next year will probably look a lot like our build-up this year did. This year turned into a trial run for next year, I guess!"
Even in a group made up of all ages and experiences at running, being a part of a team like Little Wing is beneficial in more ways than one, says Strandemo.
"Although we are all in different stages of our careers and are all dealing with the postponement a little differently, I think it's been helpful to go through it as a team. I couldn't really imagine navigating it alone," she says. "With no meets on the calendar, I think we've all had days where we don't feel as motivated. I've definitely struggled with that, but our team has been doing a great job of keeping it fun. We've done things like time trials on the track and a lot of exploring new run spots. Our motto is, 'If it's not fun, we're not doing it,' and we have been staying true to that."