When the Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced the suspension of spring sports because of the coronavirus, it became clear to many track athletes they would be on their own.
Not only are athletes self-quarantined from friends and teammates to avoid the spreading the virus, but practices organized by IHSA schools are forbidden until the season is reinstated.
Whether or not track will be completed will depend on when school starts back up, though IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson recently said he supported the "possibility of our member schools completing both regular and post spring sports seasons," and said the IHSA was considering an extension of the spring sports season to accommodate.
But not knowing whether there will be a season or not, and with little guidance from their coaches, it's up to individual athletes to stay on top of their training to make a potential return to action as seamless as possible.
Clinton senior pole vaulter Olivia Earl has taken the bold approach of getting her pole and practicing in her backyard.
"It has been so much fun — it almost feels like off-season training," Earl said. "The only problem is I don't have a vault pit here, so I practice in the yard with drills just to keep my mind fresh.
"My other vaulting teammates are doing drills, too, and it is fun to get messages from them about what they are up to."
Though Earl is working out on her own, she has had a spectator.
"I have the cutest little neighbor that likes to watch me practice and I would not be surprised if she ends up being a pole vaulter herself," Earl said.
St. Teresa senior Marie Delaney grabs her shot put and hits local parks to get her reps in, leading to some interesting looks from people passing by.
"I need to find a spot of pavement next to some grass usually," Delaney said. "It is a bit weird sometimes. The running moms will look at me like, 'What are you doing?' But usually now it is pretty empty and actually a good thing to do."
Delaney said she's working, but admitted it isn't easy by herself.
"It is harder because I have no one giving me feedback," Delaney said. "We have two other throwers (on the team), but their parents don't want them to go out to practices right now."
Some athletes have organized something closer to traditional practices on their own. St. Teresa senior Sade' Oladipupo put together a sprinter practice at parks in Decatur, where Bulldogs runners can practice while keep social distancing at the same time.
"I host the every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I try to get as many runners there as possible," Oladipupo said. "We take precautions and sometimes it doesn't happen, but I will still go out and practice myself."
Oladipupo has become an unofficial assistant coach, putting herself and the group through 10-meter fly drills on Mondays, 40-meter runs on Wednesdays and longer 150-meter runs on Fridays.
"I think most of them are working for no other reason than to get outside," St. Teresa coach Todd Vohland said. "For anybody's mental and physical health, it is a good thing.
"We have suggested that they keep doing some things and I'm sure some of them are. Overall, I've been pretty happy with it in hopes that we will have a season. They are trying to make the best of the situation."
Shelbyville senior Ailey Mitchell, a distance runner who will run for Illinois State in college, is staying prepared for the season by simulating meets as they would have happened on the schedule.
"We are still doing the same workouts we used last year and we are adding some time trials to see where we are at where a meet usually would be because we don't have any right now," Mitchell said. "I'm obviously very sad and upset that I'm not running at the moment, but at the same time I know this isn't for nothing. We have a really big problem here and I understand why they did it."
Shelbyville junior Kade Kull picked up track for the first time after basketball season ended. He said he was enjoying the sport, but admitted it's not easy to learn form on his own.
"It was kind of difficult because I've never done it before and there is more technique than just run and jump," Kull said. "I feel kind of sad about it because it was my first year and I'm really excited to do this and try a new sport."
Clinton coach Rachel Lyons said she's tried to give her runners as much structure as she can.
"I sent out some workouts and Google Maps has the great feature that they can plan out a route and know their distance," Lyons said. "Running by yourself is hard because running is such a community event. It's tough with the state parks being closed because that is where a lot of our people would run."
Not all athletes have taken to parks and outdoors for their training. Normal West sprinter and triple jumper Leslie Fisher has been doing his workouts indoors.
"My mom hasn't been letting me go outside," Fisher said. "I moved my bench in my room (for weight lifting) and I cleared out all the things on my stairs so I can run up and down the stairs to break a sweat inside."
Still, he is in constant contact with teammates through social media, even during his workouts.
"We have a group chat," Fisher said. "We FaceTime each other every day around 10 a.m. just to start our workout. We watch each other do it to make sure we're doing it ... keep everybody moving and keep everybody in shape, so when track season comes, we're in the same place (where we left off)."
Delaney said despite having so many ways to communicate with technology, she misses being around the team.
"Track is my favorite thing and it is so much more than the sports," Delaney said. "It is the girls and everything, and so it sucks to not be able to practice with them.
"We don't know if there is going to be a season but our motivation is still very much there. I really admire all the other seniors that have stepped up even when coaches aren't there."
Lyons said there will be a noticeable difference when track returns between those who kept working and those who didn't.
"If we are fortunate enough to have a season, I think there is going to be the greatest disparity we have ever seen with the top tier athletes who are doing stuff and the ones who haven't been," Lyons said. "It is going to be very clear."
Vohland said he sees the end of April as the point of no return for a season schedule that does not push the state series dates from May 21-23 for girls and May 28-30 for boys.
"I hope there is a season and I still believe there will be. If we are back in April 8, I think it would be no problem," he said. "If we go to April 20 (the date Chicago public schools are closed until), I think we have a chance but I'm concerned of anything much past that is going to be problematic."
The possibility of a loss of the entire season is the option Vohland dreads the most.
"For me personally, to miss out on coaching these kids is tough but the biggest tragedy will be for these seniors and specifically the seniors that are going to run in college," he said. "This is their last chance and I really don't want to have that conversation with my seniors with how hard they have worked to get to this point."
A lost season could also have a profound effect on younger runners who would be without any competition for half a year.
"We have a group of sophomore distance boys and I question how this is going to impact them down the road. They are going to have a hard time finding motivation," Shelbyville coach Chris Mosley said. "They could run cross country but you are talking not getting to compete in something that matters until the August or September range.
"It is hard to keep grinding with no payoff of competition."
Saturday update: Coronavirus in Central Illinois
Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten
Concerned about COVID-19?
Sign up now to get the most recent coronavirus headlines and other important local and national news sent to your email inbox daily.