Like any coach, Renee Swisher has enjoyed the highs and lows of her sport.
Hers happens to be track and field.
Never in Swisher’s wildest dreams could she have expected no season at all.
Thanks to COVID-19, her Devilettes of 2020, like all others across the Mountain State, had to deal with that scenario.
Swisher was disappointed with how things came to such an abrupt halt.
If there was a silver lining to the season for Swisher’s latest team, it was the fact she didn’t have to watch seniors lose their final year of eligibility.
In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t even rob a junior of a chance to compete.
Swisher and veteran assistant Mike Schnell were working with a team of all sophomores and freshmen.
It has indeed been a frustrating time period for coaches like Swisher and Schnell who work with athletes in the spring.
In 2011, Swisher was the state’s head coach for girls track and field recognized by the National Federation of High School Associations and the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission. Annually the NFHS/WVSSAC presents awards to coaches for their dedication, commitment to excellence and promoting the ideas of interscholastic athletics.
A long-time member of the WVSSAC’s track and field coaches committee, Swisher is still having a hard time grasping that the season ended after just a few workouts.
“We were really going to be strong in the hurdles,” Swisher said.
The sophomores consisted of Haley Ward (hurdles/sprints/long jump), Tristyn Bibbee (hurdles/sprints), Lindsey Carroll (shot put/discus/hurdles), Evelyn Allman (hurles/sprints/long jump), Belle Damron (high jump/middle distance/shot put/discus), Maddie Layton (long jump/sprints), Marissa Smith (shot put/discus/middle distance) and Julia McCoy (middle distance).
Freshmen members were Ciara Hines (hurdles/sprints), Morgan Smith (long jump/sprints) and Kali Moore (long jump/sprints).
Ward and Bibbee were qualifiers last year for the West Virginia High School State Track and Field Meet in Class A.
Ward was a member of both the 4x100 and shuttle hurdle relay teams.
Bibbee ran a leg on the shuttle squad.
Their return headed up the strong hurdle crew Swisher was looking forward to seeing in action this season.
Her team was only able to practice a few times, but Swisher saw potential from her group and a lot of hard workers.
While Swisher would loved to have had a season with this young group, her wish now is to see them all return next season to make up for lost time.
Though it would have been beneficial, of course, for the sophomores to gain additional experience and for the freshmen to get accustomed to varsity competition, a return of such youth is a lot to be excited about for Devilette track and field moving forward.
Good numbers at the middle school level is another reason for optimism. Swisher and Schnell also handle both the girls and boys programs at that level.
She noted there were 26 girls getting set for the middle school season when things shut down. While all were not eighth graders, if those numbers stay close to where they were this spring it will certainly bode well for the future.
For the time being, Renee Swisher and Mike Schnell are in a counting mode like so many others.
Counting the days for a return to normalcy.
Which will include the West Virginia track and field season of 2021.