Quest for records by local athletes put on hold
Illinois high school track fans may never again see the likes of Glenbard West distance runner Katelynne Hart.
But please, give us just a few more weeks.
The senior Michigan commit, ranked No. 7 nationally in girls cross country by Dyestat.com after the 2019 season, is among the state's superstars left in limbo by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Obviously it's my senior year, I definitely had goals, I think, of just being the best I've been yet," she said.
That's saying something. Last fall Hart won her fourth straight Class 3A cross country meet. She ran to All-America finishes three out of four appearances at the Nike Cross Nationals and in all three visits to Foot Locker Nationals.
In track Hart aimed for her fourth straight Class 3A titles in both the 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Incredibly, in 2019 she also won the 800.
Her personal records in the 1,600 (9 minutes, 52.02 seconds) and 3200 (4:38.00) are the fastest ever run by an Illinois high schoolgirl.
Due to the pandemic she's now a lot like us mortals.
"I've cleaned my room like five times," Hart said.
Her chance to compete at the March 13-15 New Balance Nationals Indoor in New York City came and went as did the canceled Illinois Top Times meet in Bloomington.
Hart was "really excited" to see what she could have done in the 3,200, and still hopes she can top her top outdoor 800 time of 2:10.81.
She woke up March 12 to a text saying the New Balance meet had been canceled. Pretty quickly Hart became resigned to the situation.
"I think at first obviously I was frustrated," she said, "but I also know that the health of our community and our nation and the world is extremely important. So I think this is kind of balancing that, because I do love to run and I love competing and I really, really miss them, but I also don't want to be selfish, either. I want everyone to be healthy.
"Mentally, right now I think I'm just kind of working out and training as if we're going to have a season. I'm not really letting myself think otherwise. But I would just say it's really, really day to day."
Hersey's Josh Methner is of like mind.
A Notre Dame recruit, the senior distance runner finished the boys cross country season ranked No. 2 nationally by Dyestat.
Running 3 miles in 13:49.96, in November Methner broke Craig Virgin's 47-year record for the fastest time at Detweiller Park to win the Class 3A title. He then won the Foot Locker title and placed second at Nike Cross Nationals.
Methner was aiming for his second straight 3A track title in the 3,200. First, he was preparing to run 5 kilometers at the Texas Distance Festival on March 14 until it was called.
"I didn't really get any chance to run any fast, fast races this year," said Methner, despite going 9:08.18 at Rockton Hononegah on Feb. 29.
This spring Methner sought to attack Illinois track's double-distance grail, repeating as Class 3A 3,200 champ and also winning the 1,600. With a personal record of 4:13.76 he has -- or had -- a good shot.
"Everyone's in the same boat, you can't really change it," Methner said. "Following along with these extreme precautions is hard but I think it's necessary to do. I'm just glad that we're kind of taking the right steps to do that and not reacting too late, hopefully."
Track and field obviously isn't the only sport whose top-flight athletes may have their seasons dashed.
For example, St. Charles East senior soccer player Elle McCaslin, a Mississippi State commit, was the 2019 Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association player of the year.
Stevenson junior water polo player Dima Kobets is being recruited by fistfuls of top college programs. He was chosen for National Team Selection Camp the past five years.
Kobets scored 7 goals in No. 1 Stevenson's sole game before postponement, a 23-6 win over No. 6 Conant.
Patriots coach Sean Wimer, who played in three NCAA Final Fours with Loyola Marymount, said he's never seen a player like him.
"The kid is an animal," Wimer said. One now out of his natural environment.
"Honestly, it's hard to describe," Kobets said of the pandemic pause. "If it was my senior season I would be very upset. I'm still trying to have the team hold out the hope for continuing the season. It's not really over until it's over, until they completely cancel it.
"We see each other a lot, so it's more about the team aspect of being there for each other, though it's not in the pool."