Coming Back From COVID-19: Eldon girls track and field out to create new ‘lasting memories’ after lost season

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Eldon's Caroline Beckmann.

The “Coming Back From COVID-19” series will focus on spring sports programs at Camdenton, Osage, Eldon, Versailles, Macks Creek and Climax Springs who saw their seasons stripped away due to the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. The series will highlight how these programs handled those tough times and their return to action.

There was every reason to look forward to track and field season in Eldon as it approached in the spring of 2020. 

The Mustang girls were coming off their highest team finish at state in program history, placing fifth among 70 Class 3 schools, and just two points shy of bringing back a state trophy. Many of the athletes who earned a state medal were returning, too, but that new season never came in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not to mention the fact that Eldon’s best run at state in program history came just days after a tornado ripped through the town and central Missouri- as if there was not enough hardship to experience.

“Honestly, I knew we were going to have a team that would have a lot of success on the track. I really feel sad for our athletes who did not get a chance to compete,” Eldon girls track and field coach Tobby Eldridge said, looking back. “I know more than just my girls lost their season. The thing that makes me the saddest is the memories we were never able to create.”

Those memories are a big emphasis in the program, along with the idea of building relationships, and it has been integral in the program’s success. Eldridge just wants his athletes to remember all the fun they once had.

“Being a track athlete is tough at times, but the relationships we build are worth every drop of sweat we put in along the way. I have been excited for this season more than any other,” he noted. “I cannot explain the excitement knowing we get to start building the relationships with our athletes again. I have a passion for track and field and I have been so worried that after almost a two year break from competition that our athletes would forget how much fun we have.” 

To try and maintain the success the program experienced in 2019, Eldridge said it would be crucial for the program to have good numbers to tackle those team goals. The Mustangs have a little experience returning from that 2019 team that should help. 

A freshman at the time, junior Caroline Beckmann is back after winning four state medals for Eldon- the maximum amount allowed for any athlete. She was third in the long jump, sixth in the triple jump, eighth in the high jump and was part of a 4x400 relay team that finished sixth in the state. 

“I wanted to be our first athlete ever to get 16 state medals in track. It hurts that I don’t get to try for that,” Beckmann said. “After a lost season, it makes me really appreciate the moments we had together. I don’t want to take this season or these moments for granted.” 

Emily Guthrie is also back and she was part of a 4x800 relay team that placed 12th in the state in 2019. Other returning letter winners include Cassidy Prater, Taylor Henderson, Alivia Beanland, Heather Harrison and Addie Davis. The general consensus amongst this group is to work even harder to make up for lost time. 

It was hard knowing what I could have done last year and I didn’t even get the chance,” said Henderson, a returning senior. 

“I wanted to set new goals for myself last year and it feels like that opportunity was taken from me,” added Davis, also a returning senior. “I want to make the most of this season and especially since it is my senior year, I don’t want to take anything for granted. I am sad for last year’s seniors and the moments we do not get back with them.”

There are also a few newcomers to watch out for that could help the program maintain that level of success from years prior. Zoe Martonfi, Karmen McNeil, Sterana Wixson and Sydney Halderman will be in the mix as they embark on their first high school track and field season. 

“Zoe and Sterana should help with hurdles and Karmen and Sydney will help with our springs and relays,” Eldridge noted. 

Whatever this season has in store, each jump, throw, sprint or hurdle will be an opportunity to foster those special moments the program looks for- something that was denied about a year ago- and those special moments can last well beyond this season. That is what Eldridge is looking forward to the most. 

“With time, medals, plaques and trophies all lose their ‘shine’ and are forgotten about. The thing I know is the memories we create for these young ladies are never ‘dull,’” Eldridge said. “I can see a former athlete from years past talk about the memories we created around track and it is just like it happened yesterday.” 

Michael Losch is the Sports Editor at the Lake Sun. He can be reached at mlosch@lakesunonline.com or 573-346-2132