MAHOPAC, N.Y. – Winter boys and girls track and field is one of the few sports—along with bowling and skiing—to be given the green light for competition this winter, and the Mahopac High School team is anxious to make the most of the opportunity.

Sports considered low risk were allowed to begin practices on Monday, Jan. 4. The Indians began their preparation a few days later, and are hoping to make all they can out of this unusual season. The team held its third practice on Monday and is on schedule to be eligible for competition on Friday.

Area teams were hit with another monkey wrench recently, when it was revealed that the Armory—where some competition was expected to take place—has been transformed into a vaccination center and will be unavailable for the remainder of the season.

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Without the Armory, or other indoor venues (like West Point or Rockland Community College) available due to COVID-19, teams are being forced to stage competitions outdoors—and hoping for weather that accommodates some kind of quality competition.

“Right now every possible winter (indoor) facility has been ruled out for the season,” said Mahopac coach Kelley Posch. “Our only option is to hold the meets outside.”

Mahopac AD Steve Luciana was trying to set up a competition for Friday to get things rolling.

“We’re trying to set something up for Friday since it’s supposed to be a balmy 47 degrees,” Posch said.

Between the virus protocols and restrictions, and the weather, Posch and every other team in Section 1 realizes they’re walking a tightrope, and things could change—due to either factor—at any moment. “We’ve got to take advantage [of the weather] while we can, especially before any more restrictions might be put in place,” Posch said. “We want to take the opportunity while we have it, because we don’t know how long it will last.”

Mahopac will compete in its usual league with John Jay of East Fishkill, Roy C. Ketcham, Arlington, and Carmel, with teams meeting for dual or tri meets. Numbers of athletes each team will be allowed to bring will be limited. For dual meets, each team can bring (the current proposal) 66 athletes, while at tri meets that number will drop to 44 per team.

“We’ve adjusted all of our expectations for this season,” Posch explained. “It’s drastically different from the past. The circumstances are not ideal, so our first priority is safety of the athletes. And we have to hope for good weather. In cold weather we’ll have to make adjustments, like maybe no jumps in the cold because the pits can freeze. The vaults could be icy. We can’t control the climate outdoors, so it will look different. We also may not be able to train the way we want to in the cold. We don’t want to pull muscles, or have those kind of problems.

“But we do feel like it is much better than nothing,” she added. “To have some sense of normal. It’s a consolation, but it is still getting together and doing the best we can do, with what we are able to do.”

With other winter sports considered high risk currently on hold, some of those athletes have chosen to participate on the track and field team, and will have the option to return to their teams if those sports are started.

“Some of our athletes, their first sport might be basketball, ice hockey or wrestling,” Posch said. “We also have some returning from the spring. A handful of them would’ve been in other sports, and if those sports start up, they will go back there. But it’s so important for their mental health, they are really struggling now (without their sports and team activities). We’re happy to have them for whatever time we can have them.”

And Posch believes many will return once they get a taste of the sport. “Once you try this sport you usually come back to it,” Posch said. “We’ve had really big growth the last couple of years. It will be hard to continue that growth in these circumstances, but we’ll do the best we can.”

Posch said it was clear that athletes were anxious to find a competitive—and social—atmosphere.

“Over the last few days, it seems like it’s been a big relief for them to be a part of something again,” the coach said. “We have such a strong sports community, so for the kids to be able to engage again—it’s everything.”

Posch, in her third year with the team, and Martin Rodriquez, in his fourth, coach the team, along with assistant Adrian Vazquez.

Returning senior girls include Kiarra Condon, Isabela Frattarola, Andrea Jenkins, Julia McGrinder, Tatiana Moran, Hailey Pereira, and Emma Witt. Senior Mia Klammer, who normally plays basketball, joins the team for the first time.

Jenkins finished sixth in the 300 at last year’s state qualifier, and Pereira reached the Class A meet last year in the 1,000. Both are looking for a strong season.

“All of our returning seniors are team leaders,” Posch said. “We’re looking for them to show our school’s core values. I know they will work their hardest and continue towards bettering their times and building the culture we’re working to build.”

Returning senior boys include Frank Cammarata, David Kaprielian, Justin Kumrow, Nick Servino, Max Semegran, and Jamie Virola. Joe Nikisher and James Russo join the team for the first time.

Kumrow earned All-League and All-County recognition in cross country, and hopes to carry that momentum into the winter, where he specializes in the mile and two-mile.

“Some of them have been here for years, and they’re all leaders,” the coach said. “I’m looking forward to seeing them in that role. They all did well last year and should have a strong senior season. They’re all positive and encouraging.”

The Indians currently have a schedule that will tentatively begin on Jan. 19 (unless the team was able to schedule a competition for Friday, Jan. 15), with a dual meet at Arlington. Jan. 22, the Indians are scheduled to host Arlington. Jan. 25 and 26 are both scheduled tri meets, including Mahopac, Carmel, and Ketcham. All meets are scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m.

“We look forward to whatever time we can salvage together and we want to give the seniors the moments that they deserve,” Posch said. “The current team’s climate and culture is a direct result of their cultivation. Our MHS core values of resilience, risk-taking and compassion have been fostered, and integrated by this senior class, and while this may not be the season we wanted, we’ll make the most of what we have, and we’ll dedicate it to them.”