LIVINGSTON, NJ — For most members of the Livingston High School (LHS) track team, the 2020 season came to an end with their last Zoom workout on Friday. However, several varsity athletes have elected to compete in the National Scholastic Athletic Foundation (NSAF) Virtual X AthleticNET meet, which is currently being conducted all over the United States.
According to LHS boys track and field coach Nancy Petryna, the cancellation of the season was especially painful for these athletes, as many of them are seniors and most had set personal goals, including the opportunity to compete at Nationals either as an individual or on a relay. This month, the virtual race has given them the opportunity to achieve these goals.
The virtual competition includes track and field athletes from coast to coast, including students from California, Texas and Florida. Petryna noted that states hit hardest by the pandemic—such as New York and New Jersey—have fielded the fewest entrants due to the requirement for all participating athletes to compete on a standard track and field surface.
Livingston athletes have found open tracks in a nearby park or have traveled out of town to nearby high schools with open complexes.
So far, the meet has included three qualifying rounds and will commence with the top 50 in each event. The top 50 will head to the finals, where the athletes must post new races between June 13 and June 19.
Sprinters Liz Lam, Reigne Villanueva and Katrina Pham all posted 100-meter races.
Lam (13.5 seconds) and Pham (13.8) both competed in the first qualifying round, placing 12th and 13th, respectively in that round. Villanueva entered the third qualifying round with her time of 14.2 and placed 39th out of the 49 sprinters that competed.
Pham later entered a 400-meter time of 64.9, which secured her a 19th-place finish out of the 53 athletes that competed in that round.
Inspired by their sprinting teammates, junior co-captain Jacob Kogut and Ryan Lee, also entered the third round of the Nationals competition in the 100-meter dash. Kogut posted an impressive 11.7 for a 16th-place finish with Lee placing 21st out of 47 runners with his personal best 12.0 effort.
Kogut also added a 24.3 finish in the 200-meter race for a 12th-place finish out of the 48 athletes that competed in the round.
Also choosing to extend their season were Sean Miller and Philmon Mehari.
Miller added his 800-meter personal record of 2:02.4 to the first qualifying round of competition placing him 8 out of 33 competitors.
Mehari, who will be competing at Division 1 NJIT next season as a college freshman, has continued his training throughout the season. He entered competitive times in both the 800 (2:00.3), placing 13th out of 75 athletes in the third qualifying round, and a 4:25.8 for a 4th place in the 1600 with 54 competitors.
All athletes are currently awaiting notice of whether they will be invited to the final round of competition as the organizers validate each entry to ensure that all the post requirements are carefully followed.
“The national event as well as the local virtual competitions have allowed the athletes their continued dream to achieve goals, be they modified, despite the pandemic,” said Petryna. “Given that they were obtained with more inner drive than would usually be required, all the members of this 2020 Lancer track team can be proud of their achievements.
“Many thanks are given to their parents, who can be heard in the background of their videos cheering them on to run faster and jump farther. The season has also inspired the coaching staff to find creative methods to connect and motivate with the team.”
Despite feeling the loss of the competitive season, and although their “collective will to keep going” was tested, Petryna added that the athletes, parents and coaches all found a way to cross the finish line.