Coming Back From COVID-19: Osage track and field looking forward to the rebuild after year away

Michael Losch
Lake Sun Leader
Osage's Sara Wolf.

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 no playbook for what Osage track and field or any other program experienced in the spring of 2020. 

Through no fault of their own, Indian athletes saw their season cancelled like others across the state of Missouri due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the only question simply became what to do next. Well, Osage coaches Miriam Hill and Devin Johnson had one idea. 

Both coaches saw it to be imperative to stay in constant daily communication with their athletes and sent them workouts to follow as a source of motivation. 

“The biggest lesson we learned is that nothing in life is guaranteed. Every joy we have is a blessing,” said Johnson who leads the boys program. “We provided workouts and tried to motivate as much as we could, but nothing replaces face-to-face personal communication.” 

The good news is that things did not need to permanently remain that way. As the summer came and the transition to a new school year began, coaches were allowed to finally meet with their athletes face-to-face once again. That is where Hill, who leads the girls program, saw over 200 athletes getting back to work and regaining what was lost through summer conditioning. It was a good sign for the future as well. 

“50 percent of the girls track and field team are freshmen. They have done a phenomenal job this spring in regards to picking up skills they only had one year to learn as seventh graders,” Hill said of the young group who missed their eighth grade seasons of track and field because of the pandemic. 

“With so many freshmen on the team, we will be able to continually grow the girls track and field program for years to come.” 

Good thing, too, because the Indians brought back just one returning state medalist from 2019 in senior Sara Wolf who captured sixth in the 800 meter run. Osage lost a fair amount of talent due to graduation from a program that qualified for 12 state events that spring, including fourth place state long jumper Loren Melton and multi-state qualifier Georgia Verslues who did not see their senior seasons in 2020. 

“Since we were fortunate to have summer training and a fall and winter sports season, we have jumped righting like we always start our season,” Hill noted. “Our athletes are happy to be back at it again. We have already had two meets and many of them started off where they ended two years ago with their jumps, throws or times.” 

Overall, Hill said the goal is to see a consistent array of personal records being achieved throughout the season- like any year- and time will soon tell where this young program ends up. 

That will be the focus for Johnson and his athletes as well, as the coach feels like there is some ground to be made up. 

“In general, it feels like we are behind from other years. We only had two weeks of practice last year, so we are teaching and spending more time on areas that we normally don’t have to,” the coach pointed out before the season started. “All the athletes missed a year of experience so we are teaching basics of all events.” 

Some of the top talent the program once had are gone, such as Robert Moore who earned third in the shot put at state in 2019, along with Matthew McCubbin who qualified for state in the javelin and Chase Grosvenor who earned a spot at state in the 3,200 meter run. The Indians will also miss the throwing talents of Rudy Escobar and Jesse Velasquez who made a splash in the postseason discus competitions. 

But, it is next man up. 

“We are excited to have a season and look forward to competing. That is the focus this year is that we ‘get’ to compete,” Johnson stated. “We want our athletes to embrace every day and look forward to improving.” 

One thing Johnson is also excited about this spring is the potential depth his program may have, allowing for the program to tweak a few things and put athletes in the best possible positions for success.

“One of our strengths is our versatility. We have depth in a lot of events and have the ability to move people based on their strengths,” he pointed out. “I am personally excited about seeing each athlete improve throughout the year and the one thing about track is the stopwatch and measuring tape do not lie.” 

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