Jim Henry: One year later, Lions return to indoor track and field championships

Jim Henry, The Joplin Globe, Mo.
·3 min read

Mar. 7—It's likely still fresh in everyone's mind.

In 2020, Missouri Southern took possibly it's strongest representation ever to the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championships in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Lions arrived on site on Tuesday, and late Thursday afternoon — the day before the competition was to start — the meet was canceled because of COVID-19.

"I know they are looking out for the good of everyone on this, but it doesn't make it any better for kids who put their heart and soul into this," Lions coach Bryan Schiding said at the time.

This weekend marks the one-year anniversary of the stoppage, and some MSSU athletes are headed back to Birmingham.

But it certainly hasn't been an easy journey for the Lions during the past year.

"It's not even saying the unknown has been the hardest part of the season," Schiding said before the start of last weekend's MIAA Championships. "We have the certainty of competition. We have the certainty of a season, but just hoping that our student-athletes make good choices, stay healthy, because once somebody goes into quarantine, it's potentially a 2-week to 21-day turnover for the kid.

"The health and safety has obviously been the No. 1 priority of this entire year for our team. We've had I think a lot less than many other programs, but we've had a number of positive cases. We've had quite a few of our kids quarantined, mainly first semester. Once we got back from Christmas and started testing on a weekly basis, I believe we've only had one positive in the past two months."

The COVID and quarantines obviously affect the training for track and field.

"The number of kids who were quarantined and were not able to practice first semester certainly had its challenges with trying to train them," Schiding said. "The lapse of time from last March 14 in 2020 to when they arrived back on campus in late August, that's a long span for student-athletes to be training on their own and quite frankly lack of training on their own.

"So in many cases with our student-athletes, it was not necessarily re-teaching but retraining their body to do things that we expect them to do on a daily basis. Once we got them to that point, then it's business as usual. We saw a lot more injuries in the fall than we typically would see in a regular fall. We've seen a number of use injuries that track and field will see, but this year it seemed to be compounded. We saw a lot more of them."

Adjustments also had to be made beyond the training and competitions.

"Travel has been different. Hotels have been different. Meals have been different," Schiding said. "Our coaching staff with Jamie (Burnham), Coach (Brian) Allen and Coach (Jason) Francis did a tremendous job making sure that at every place, we had individually packed meals and we had every meal catered and we had the right hotel list. We're taking double the travel, making sure we're doing the right thing in travel.

"It was a lot more logistics that we were dealing with this year than we typically have had to. We're just going with the flow and learning the best we can and trying to make sure we keep the health and safety of our student-athletes in mind."

Follow Sports Editor Jim Henry on Twitter at @Jim_Henry53.