* Photo provided by Delisa McDavid
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Track and field athletes have to ask themselves an important question.
With no season and no races on the horizon for many athletes across the country, how will they measure improvement over this time?
For most, time trials have become the new norm.
And while, sure, they aren't the stuff of legend -- or maybe they are -- in a perfect world these VO2 max efforts would be mechanisms for which training can either reinforce or shed new light on development.
"It's been good to continue to exercise and remain mentally fit," McDavid said recently. "I definitely set goals for myself and wanted to work to achieve those. But after seeing the jumps I saw from my middle school to high school seasons, I wanted to also build on that and not lose out on a season."
Guided by her mother, Delisa, who's been a head coach at Cherry Creek for the past 13 years and was a former track state champion at the scool, Kel McDavid has used this time to execute on the idea of race season through a different lens. Wherever the pair has been able to find a track, they've utilized their time to the fullest.
McDavid's freshman season saw her perform at a variety of distances, setting PRs of 12.87 in the 100m, 25.90 in the 200m, 57.65 in the 400m and 2:17.25 in the 800m. She was sixth in the state as a freshman in the Class 5A 400m and reached states in the 800m.
So far this spring, she's gone after all those marks, securing solo efforts of 12.95, 58.9 and 2:25.8.
But it hasn't been easy.
In track and field, competition is where athletes measure their ability in front of a jury of their peers. And it's no secret, personal improvement often yields from pressure-filled moments.
"It's obviously a huge bummer," Kel said. "For me, growing up with my mom as coach, I've been to track meets my entire life. And when I was little, I dreamed of being able to run in high school. I love running and the community of track. So it's a bummer we're aren't given the opportunity to continue that."
Just finding the right facility to train has been tumultous.
Delisa and her daughter have not only had to skip around town to find facilities that are open, but they've also tried to secure ones that aren't populated by the general public. While Colorado is under a stay-at-home order until April 30, exercise is permitted.
Delisa said the pair have trained on Cherry Creek's high school and middle school track (before it closed), Arapahoe and Campus Middle School. But they're also keenly aware that it could change at any second. Law enforcement has been cracking down on large groups and individuals who aren't practicing social distance.
"While we were at Campus, there was a cop that drove by and saw us, but he didn't stop," Delisa said. "No one was up there. I think police officers are trying to let people do stuff outside, as long as you're doing it in a safe way."
As a result, Delisa and Kel have been figuring out how to get the most out of limited time on the track. They've preferred morning practices, since most of the Cherry Creek community that would seek outdoor exercise often wait until the evening to get on the track.
* Kel McDavid runs an 800m time trial
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Still, both have found joy in the little moments. Kel says her favorite workouts are the ones where her mother sets up 8x 300 meter intervals. When asked to counter, Mom said she prefered the broken repetitions, those 300m, 400m and 500m distances.
"I personally have seen success with those," Delisa said. "Those are mentally challenging."
Sometimes hope is threatened. Colorado officially canceled its season on Tuesday, ending what many hoped would be a shortened campaign on the track. Delisa, in particular, was disappointed because Cherry Creek returned very talented boys' and girls' teams. But while it's an unfortunate scenario, both agree it's better than the latter option: Not training at all.
"We don't want to lose out on this opportunity to make progress," Delisa said. "Time trials might not be the same and you may not have the adrenaline you would in races. But even showing up on Saturday or Sunday and mentally preparing for a race, it will benefit you in the long run."
That's what's taken place as a result. They've set race dates on Sunday so that Kel can prepare for big efforts to come.
"When I go into race day," Kel said. "I do everything as I would normally. I put on my spikes and get into the usual race day warm up and cool down. I just try to simulate it the best I can."
McDavid is still searching for new personal records in all of her events, but even now she's starting to realize a love for particular distances.
"I've grown to love the 400m," Kel said.
"We've had conversations about setting realistic goals," Delisa said. "It's hard to get out and run 2:15 as a sophomore without competition. That's a challenging task. But how close can we get?"
Soon enough, they both believe, the breakthrough will take place, and these daily treks to various tracks will make a difference.
Soon enough, track and field will be back, and that promise of last year will be on display yet again.
Soon enough, Kel McDavid will compete for state championships and will try to make her dreams come true again.
"I've been really impressed with her ability to train at a consistently high levels," Delisa said.
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