Prior to the cancellation of spring high school activities and sports in Kansas due to the coronavirus pandemic, anticipation had been building for strong seasons from Leavenworth’s boys’ and girls’ track and field teams.

The Pioneers were a few weeks into practice for the 2020 campaign that everyone involved was excited for.

“We were so excited about the prospects of this season,” Pioneer sprint and relay coach Dominic Martinez said. “We had some things to be excited about on the boys’ team and it was anticipated from a state standpoint that the girls’ team had a shot at the 5A state title.”

Martinez said the athletes and coaches started to anticipate the season would be called off and quickly understood how the issues at hand transcend sports.

The Pioneer coaches have utilized Google Classroom to stay in touch with their athletes and send them resources like workout schedules. Martinez said he has also had opportunities to meet with seniors virtually to discuss their academic and athletic futures.

Those seniors who were expecting to compete for one last season have felt a gambit of emotions as they prepare to compete at the collegiate level or move on from the sport altogether.

“One of the things that I have tried to do is stay strong for them and remind them that it is their right to be sad,” he said, “but there is so much more to life than track and field and so much more for them in this world. Many of them are going to have the opportunity to compete at the collegiate level, but they all have the potential to do something great outside of the sport.”

The loss of a season affects any athlete in high school hoping to improve their game or grab the attention of recruiters. Martinez said he is working on behalf of his athletes and hopes collegiate programs will lean more on recommendations from coaches when times and other results are not as available. He said juniors going into their senior year will have even more importance placed on their final season next year as they make up for the lost time. Martinez said the contact he maintains with college coaches and the resources he sends to them has been helpful in finding schools for his athletes to compete at, even during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I do the best I can to act as a resource for the kids in the recruiting world by presenting them with as many options for colleges as possible,” Martinez said.

Martinez said he has had the opportunity to grow and adapt as both a teacher and coach since schools closed and education shifted to online but misses getting to see his students every day.

“It has been tough,” he said. “I miss my students and I miss my student-athletes. Nothing can replace the experience of face-to-face interaction and actually watching the growth in the classroom or on the track every day.”