Track and field athletes in Texas have lost nearly all of their opportunities to compete this summer. The coronavirus pandemic forced the cancellation of USA Track and Field and AAU events, as well as the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation Summer Games.
But there are still a couple of ways that Texas athletes can win national championships. That includes a virtual competition.
And two Texas high school distance runners have already produced extraordinary times in virtual events during the pandemic.
Texas MileSplit reported Tuesday that Denton Guyer junior Brynn Brown ran an unofficial time of 9:39 in a 3,200-meter time trial. That would have broken one national record.
Katelyn Touhy from New York holds the official girls national record in the 3,200 for high school-only competitions with a time of 9:47.88 in 2018. That converts to 9:51.29 for two miles. Track & Field News lists the time of 9:38.68 by Mary Cain from New York at the 2013 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix as the overall high school national record for a two-mile race.
Brown broke the UIL state-meet record for all classifications in the 3,200 when she won the Class 6A title in 10:09.91 in 2019. This season, Brown ran the nation’s No. 1 time in the 3,200 — 9:58.58 — before the season was canceled because of COVID-19. That is the best official time in state history for a pure 3,200 race.
Brown’s time of 9:57.54 in the two-mile race at the 2019 Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle converts to a 9:54.07 for 3,200 meters. That is the time that the Texas Track & Field Coaches Association lists as the overall state record in the 3,200.
On May 9, Texas MileSplit reported that Oklahoma State signee Ryan Schoppe from La Porte ran an unofficial one-mile time of 4:00.81 as part of the MileSplit Virtual Classic. Schoppe won the 6A state title in cross country as a senior this season, and he was the 6A state runner-up in track in 2019 with a time of 4:07.47.
Breaking 4 minutes is a rare feat at the high school level. In 2017, Southlake Carroll’s Reed Brown became the 10th U.S. high school runner in history to break 4 minutes in the mile, running 3:59.30 at the Festival of Miles in St. Louis.
Brown and Schoppe had runners pacing them. Both submitted video of their runs to MileSplit.
The AAU Track and Field Club National Championships are still scheduled to be held in July at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Orlando, with multi-event competition taking place July 12-13 and track and field events being held July 14-18. The event, which has age divisions for 8 and under through 17-18, is open to any AAU athlete across the country, and the only qualification is a current AAU membership.
AAU also hopes to still hold its Junior Olympic Games, but the organization is looking for new dates and a new location for that event. There won’t be any qualifying meets for that, either. It was originally scheduled for Aug. 1-8 at Norfolk State University in Virginia.
The National Scholastic Athletics Federation has not canceled its Outdoor Nationals, scheduled for July 16-19, but NSAF is looking for a new location for the event and won’t decide until the end of the month if it will take place. The organization will hold a virtual national track and field meet — the NSAF x AthleticNet Virtual Nationals — and there will be three virtual qualifying meets that lead up to the Finale that is June 13-19.
“Athletes have been looking for something to motivate them to stay in shape and kind of have something to hang their hat on for the season in case they don’t end up getting to do any real meets,” NSAF director of media and public relations Steve Underwood said. “In places where tracks are open, or in some cases for distance runners on the roads, athletes are wanting to test themselves and get something out of their year. Especially some of these seniors.”
The first qualifying meet runs through Friday, the second is Saturday through May 29, and the third is May 30 to June 5. The Finale is open to the top 50 performers combined from the first three meets in each event, and the top 10 performers in each event will receive virtual All-American recognition.
“Several hundred have signed up at this point,” Underwood said.
The competition is open to high school athletes and those who in seventh and eighth grade this school year, and they will all compete against each other in one division. There are 18 events (10 track events and eight field events) — athletes can compete in as many events as they want — and all meets and registration will be run through Athletic.net and the AthleticAPP.
All performances and submissions must occur during the respective meet windows through the AthleticAPP, and the videos that are submitted must demonstrate proper social distancing to be counted in the results. Meet results will be posted throughout the week and, after Meet 2, virtual rankings for each event will be posted. The rankings will be sortable nationally and by state.
“We wanted to offer this to people, because we noticed that people are having virtual meets around the country,” Underwood said. “We wanted to give kids a chance to compete, not just to go out and run a time and put it on social media and say you did it, but to actually have something to compete for.”
Running events must take place on a track, and videos are required for all events other than the 5K run and the 3K racewalk. The video must show the full running time of the event from start to finish. For the 5K run and 3K racewalk, a photo of GPS software showing both time and distance is required.
Here is a link with information on how to record and report results.
USATF canceled a pair of national meets in Florida — the Hershey National Youth Outdoor Championships from June 23-28 and the Hershey National Junior Olympics Track and Field Championships from July 27-Aug. 2. AAU canceled all district and regional track meets that were scheduled in Texas.
On Monday, the TAAF voted to cancel its Summer Games in Corpus Christi.
“When USATF and AAU and TAAF all shut down, that eliminates the meets underneath like district and regional meets to get to the Junior Olympics,” said Stuart Kantor, executive director of the Texas Track & Field Coaches Association. “Texas Greatest Athlete at St. Mark’s has also shut down. That’s usually the first weekend in June for the heptathletes and decathletes.”