Imagine being a seventh- or eighth-grader and trying to separate fact from fiction concerning the coronavirus, and wrapping your head around the worldwide pandemic.
Now, imagine being the coach for those students.
William Muhn is in that situation. He is the head coach of both the boys’ and girls’ varsity track and field teams at Philip Simmons. The squad is talented and young, with student-athletes on the roster who aren’t even in high school.
Muhn can’t meet face-to-face with his team to discuss the season, the possible state championships the athletes have worked for – or the pandemic that could cancel the remainder of the spring season. But he’s there for them if needed.
“It’s a hard situation,” Muhn said. “It’s tough and stressful for everybody. The kids know it’s serious. The kids realize the school is shut down for a reason. They also know this is bigger than our track team. We have five or six seniors, but the rest will be coming back next year.”
Everyone sensed the Summerville Azalea/Raising Canes Invitational on March 14 could be the last meet of the season. All-American distance runner Noah Ward swept the competition for three gold medals to showcase the team’s might and muscle.
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMasters ordered public schools closed until March 31, and the deadline was extended to April 13. On March 23, Charleston County School Superintendent Gerrita Postlewait told reporters that students probably won’t return to school on April 13.
There was nothing but optimism surrounding both the Iron Horses girls and boys after last year’s performance at the state meet. Both teams finished in second place among Class AA schools.
In the girls’ meet, underclassmen Haley Meyers and Najhyrai Watson led the team. Meyers scored gold in the 800-, 1,600- and 3,200-meter runs. Watson turned in a national elite “gold” time of 24.49 to win the 200-meter dash. The 4x400 relay team also picked up a silver medal.
In the boys’ state meet, Ward swept the distance events to account for 30 of the Iron Horses boys’ 57 points. Kiamani Denmark captured the bronze medal in the 200-meter run.
The expectations were high for 2020 as possible state titles loomed. And then came the doom. The demanding regular-season schedule was put on hold. This included the Bojangles Track and Field Classic, which was scheduled to be held at Spring Valley High School.
“We went two years ago, and there were schools up and down the East Coast competing,” Muhn said. “There were kids from Barbados competing. It was such a big meet that there were 24 heats in the 100 (meter dash).”
The schedule also included an appearance in the Coaches Classic, which is a showcase and preview of the state championships, which is slated for May.
“We get caught in our own little bubble,” Muhn said. “We want to get back to it. But there are other things to be concerned about. I worry about my parents and my 95-year-old grandparent. It puts things in perspective.”