Written for The Argo by Eric Dahan
In a year of firsts, we are searching for normalcy. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Stockton University re-opened its campus in the Fall of 2020, but it was not the same. Most classrooms were empty, gyms were closed, and students were confined to their dorm rooms. Additionally, fall sports season was cancelled.
Having just returned from winter break, this semester shows some hope. Winter and spring sports will hold their seasons. One of those sports is track and field. The team has begun practicing and, if all goes well, will begin its season at the end of February. Recently, I spoke with Kierstin Clem, a freshman long distance runner, about the upcoming track and field season. I was really interested in her outlook for the upcoming season and to see how she is adjusting to the life of a college athlete during this challenging time. I started our interview by asking her about her preparation for the upcoming season and her personal goals.
“I have been training everyday, never missing a workout or run. I try to stay focused on the end goal and push through even on the bad days,” said Clem. “Personally, I expect to meet new standards for myself, whether it be new personal records or just feeling more confident in what I am capable of.”
Next, I asked her about the communication she has had with her coaches and teammates during the pandemic and through winter break.
“They [the coaches] communicate through emails and group messages to make sure we are doing what we need to be doing,” answered Clem. “There is always a weekly schedule during breaks. We [her teammates and herself] have all stayed in touch and have been running together.”
Now that the team has begun to practice together, Clem and I discussed her practice schedule and the team’s safety measures. “Practices are Monday through Friday with a long run on our own on Saturdays,” Clem continued. “They always go smoothly and when we are there everyone is working very hard up until race days. Social distancing is being practiced wherever we are and masks must be worn through practice.”
Clem and I also spoke about camaraderie. The common misconception is that track and field athletes compete in individual competitions outside of a few events. When I asked Clem about her teammates, she made a very strong point about them being a collective group working with each other: “It feels more like a family to me rather than a bunch of people who run with each other.”
I also asked if any of her teammates have taken the freshmen under their wings to show them the ropes. “I would be lying if I said no,” she answered. “Over the summer, I ran often with Jessie Klenk and Steve Conte. They were the first two to really give me a sense of what it was like to be a part of the team. Jessie really helped guide me through training days even when I don’t think I can do them.”
With Covid-19 cases rising again, the hope is that the track and field program can compete for their entire season and see great success while keeping its athletes and coaching staff safe.
Here’s to a great upcoming season for the Stockton Track and Field Team–and Kierstin Clem–in our hope to return to some normalcy.