On April 8, the Oregon School Activities Association officially canceled the high school track and field season along with all other spring sports and sanctioned activities.

Student-athletes in Oregon and around the country saw their seasons cut short or not happen at all. Yet, a creative idea in this new era of virtual everything has given runners at chance at some sort of competition.

Roseburg High School runners have competed in one virtual meet organized by South Medford High and RHS cross country coach Nathan Eckman says the team has plans for future participation.

“It’s super exciting and dynamic, because times are coming in from all over the country,” Eckman said. “What’s been interesting for some of our athletes, I think they’re getting in better shape now than if there had been a season.

“Eventually, as an endurance athlete, you have to just say goodbye to the pack and learn how to run on your own, either in a race situation or just training. It’s a mental game. It’s a battle, because you’re constantly trying to continue to believe in yourself. So that’s why I think these virtual races are so cool. They can keep you sharp.”

Virtual races allow runners to square off with their competitors without ever seeing them. They run a race and post evidence of their time and distance to the Web to see where they rank among others. Runners can use GPS run trackers and videos to prove their results.

So far, Eckman says about 10 of the RHS long distance runners have taken part and “a ton more have expressed interest.”

“I think they were just seeing how the first meet went,” Eckman said. “So now we’ve had a couple of kids who were like the Neil Armstrong that did the meet, saw how it works. So now I think it will just catch fire.”

Races range from 100-meter sprints to 5,000 meters for the girls and 10,000 for the boys. In April’s meet hosted by the Panthers, freshmen Charis and Corinne Childers finished second and third, respectively, in the 1,500. Charis finished four seconds off the leader in a time of 5:15, while Corinne wasn’t far behind at 5:23. Both marks were PRs.

Roseburg sophomore Preston Smith finished fourth out of four runners in the boys 3,000 with a time of 10:43.

The website Athletic.net is hosting a national track meet open through May 6 for athletes in multiple disciplines.

Eckman says he’d also like to see the virtual race idea catch on locally with a fun run for the community.

“I’ve never seen so many people exercising in Roseburg in my life. It’s just amazing,” Eckman said.

While there may not be a high school track season, maybe a virtual season will do just enough to fill the void until prep sports return next school year.

Joey Keeran is the sports director for KSKR The Score.

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