You’ve likely heard the sentiment many times from other area high-school coaches over the past two years, but it still rings true: Coming into the 2021-’22 boys indoor track season, Deptford High School coach Kevin Sherry hoped to just get through a full year’s schedule.
“I think coming into the season that was everyone’s biggest concern, getting to be able to go through a full and complete season with state relays, sectionals, the state meet and everything that normally happens,” Sherry said.
“We were just hoping to be able to have everything again for the first time in a while, and as the seasons progressed, it’s continued to look like those are all going to happen,” he added.
After a heavily modified indoor and outdoor schedule last year, a slight return to normalcy – at least in terms of meet scheduling – would be welcomed by track athletes across the state.
When it comes to expectations for the current indoor season, Sherry says he was originally unsure what to expect from his youthful team, but a program that’s boasted numerous state and sectional championships over the past four years should never be counted out.
“After seeing that it was looking like we would be able to get a semi-normal season, you then turn to looking at how we can organize the team in a way that we can be competitive,” Sherry said.
“For us, we’re actually pretty young and inexperienced this year, so we have a lot of kids throughout the grade levels, honestly, that hadn’t really experienced an indoor season yet or we’re just brand new in general,” he added. “There were a lot of question marks at first because of our inexperience with most of our guys.”
Despite the obstacles, the Deptford boys indoor track team clinched its second Group 2 State Relays Championship earlier this month, following a close 34 to 32.5 win over the closest team in Rumson-Fair Haven. Deptford first won the meet in 2019, although COVID forced its cancellation last year.
Junior Lathan Brown ran on four scoring teams for the Spartans in the meet, including Deptford’s only winning event on the track in the 4×200-meter relay. Brown was at first unsure of the team’s potential after some experienced teammates graduated and meets were limited due to the pandemic.
“I didn’t know who we had going in at first, because I know we lost a lot of valuable seniors last year, but coach Sherry and our other coaches were able to guide us along the way in getting better at our craft,” he said.
“The seniors we have now are great role models with everything they’ve gone through and helping guide us, especially those that might not have the most experience when it comes to indoor [track],” Brown added.
Seniors like Miles Williams, also on the team’s first-place 4×200-meter relay team, and Gursharan Singh both joined track their sophomore years, so they’ve endured both indoor and outdoor track seasons forced by COVID for most of their high-school careers.
The return to more traditional meets and championships was welcomed, players say, and despite the team’s obvious inexperience, they grew more confident in their team’s ability. As best they can, the players are taking advantage of the last indoor season.
“Right after state relays my sophomore year, which was my first season, is when everything shut down, so I missed my entire first outdoor season, and then the entirety of my junior indoor season, so I had one outdoor junior season where I was actually progressing in [all my events] in meets,” Singh said.
“With it being my senior year, I’ve got to give it everything I’ve got since it’s my last one,” she added. “I’m actually getting to have a real season – it feels good.”