The program remains strong.
As important as that is to John O’Hara and Cathedral High School boys track and field, it doesn’t change the difficult nature of not completing the 2020 season. That still hurt.
And it was still disappointing.
“They set some pretty cool and high goals that unfortunately they weren’t able to see out,” O’Hara, Cathedral’s track and field coach, said of the ‘20 Irish boys track season.
Irish boys track, like all Indiana high school spring sports, had its 2020 season canceled by regulations addressing Covid-19. Irish boys track was able to practice and compete in two indoor meets, but the cancellation ended the high school careers of a core of solid seniors who have been instrumental in building Irish boys track in recent seasons.
“The groundwork they laid down in the offseason and the indoor season is still going to prove to be beneficial to the younger kids,” O’Hara said. “What we’ve kind of established the last four or five seasons is not only are we a good program when it comes to city championships and competing against the other private schools, but we’re pretty solid competing against everybody in Indiana all over the state.
“The attention that the sport and team have gotten over the last two or three years with some dynamic kids has really opened the eye to other athletes is that this can be pretty fun.”
The Irish in ’19 sent eight finalists to the season-ending Indiana High School Athletic Association state meet, finishing a strong fourth behind then-senior Cole Hocker’s individual state titles in the 800-and 1600-meter runs. The Irish had finished 46th in the state in 2016, 33rd in 2017 and 19th in 2018.
O’Hara said this year’s Irish featured a core of seniors still capable of competing at a high level, a group that included senior distance runner Nick Hruskoci – a team captain whose leadership was evident early in the pandemic.
“Nick had performed at such a high level,” O’Hara said of Hruskoci, who finished 18th in the 3,200 at the state meet as a junior – and who was a member of the fifth-place 4x800 relay team at the state meet that year. “I think he was going to do some outstanding things come June.
“It was something he was pretty passionate about. When we delivered news [in mid-March] that school was going to close until mid-April, Nick kind of took charge after I spoke and spoke to 70 or 80 kids – unprompted – to motivate them to do what they needed to do during the time we were going to be away assuming at that point we were going to be back.
“He was demanding everybody push themselves in the direction to do some damage.”
Irish ’20 boys track’s seniors were:
*Hruskoci, who won the 3,200 at the LC Qualifier No. 1 in March in 9:37.8. “He was off to a great start, highly motivated,” O’Hara said.
*Max Martin, pole vaulter, who finished third at the LC Qualifier No. 1 with a vault of 13-0. “He was on his way to the indoor state finals,” O’Hara said.
*Shiloh Means, sprinter, who finished fifth in the 60-yard dash at the LC Qualifier in 7.1 seconds and second in the 60 at the Roncalli Invite in 7.15. “He missed his junior year and was on his way to the state finals in the 60 meters,” O’Hara said.
*Quinton Cannon, high jumper, long jumper, sprinter.
*Grant Ferguson, a 4x800 medalist at the state meet as a junior.
*Jordan Thomas, 100 meters and 4x100 relay.
*Garrett Stewart, 200 meters and 400 meters.
*Zach Gregor, pole vaulter.
*Aaron Cotton, shot put and discus.
“Things were kind of coming together for this senior class,” O’Hara said. “They weren’t a big group, per se, but they were very, very solid. They were overall great athletes, great students, great leaders in the school and outside the school. I really feel for them to not be able to kind of prove what their class can do.
“A lot of guys were coming back from injuries. These guys were highly motivated to get down to Bloomington [for the state meet] not only in the indoor season but the outdoor season.”
And while the disappointment of the season’s early end was real and deep, O’Hara said there were lessons learned from a difficult spring.
“In the grand scheme of things, there are an endless amount of life lessons when you go through a normal track and field season – then to be thrust into this …” O’Hara said. “Usually, the most enjoyable part of your senior year is the last couple of months.
“For a spring-sport athlete who has high aspirations, this is a tough pill to swallow, but I think this is going to have a lasting effect to not take any race really for granted.”