When the University Interscholastic League initially announced all competitions, practices and workouts were to be suspended until March 29, College Station boys track and field coach Eddie Hancock started communicating with the other coaches and athletic directors in the district to work out a plan.
A flexible plan.
The UIL extending the suspension until May 4 came as no surprise to Hancock as he expected further changes to the schedule.
“I sent a group e-mail out that afternoon,” Hancock said. “I sent an e-mail out to all the kids. We can’t practice next week. We can’t use the facilities, so I kind of let them know what was going on and try to let them know as I find things out. But as of right now we can’t do much.”
Like every high school team across the state, the suspension came just as Hancock was entering the key stretch of evaluating his current crop of athletes.
The Cougars competed in four meets prior to the suspension, including the Cypress Falls Golden Eagle Invitational and the Belton Big Red Relays. Both meets included numerous Class 6A schools, giving Hancock the chance to see how his athletes fared against better competition while also testing different athletes in different events from meet to meet.
The College Station Relays was the team’s final meet before the suspension. The Cougars came in second to Katy, and Hancock enjoyed the progress his team was making.
“Our times were getting better,” he said. “Of course, the weather was warming up, so our times were better. Our jumps were better. I feel like we’re making good progress throughout our first four meets, so I felt really good about us before we hit the breaks. But we can’t change what’s going on, so we’ll just control what we can and hopefully things will work out.”
A handful of Cougars had good starts to the season, including freshman sprinter Bobby Drake. The newcomer leads the team in the 100 meters at 11 seconds and in the 200 at 22.62. His 100 mark also leads District 19-5A.
“Lot of times freshmen are wide-eyed going up against good competition, but he’s really been focused on what he’s doing and has performed well,” Hancock said.
College Station also leads the district in the distance medley relay at 11:01.82, highlighting the team’s strength in the distance and middle distance events. Seniors Joseph Benn and Sid Jayaraman are the leaders in those events. Benn’s 3,200 time of 9:45.27 leads the district, while Jayaraman has the Cougars’ top times in the 800 and 1,600.
Other Cougars were hitting their stride when the suspension hit, too, but Hancock knows this year’s squad now has an uncertain future. And with no teaching example from his 20 years of coaching, handling the COVID-19 pandemic from a coaching standpoint is a learn-as-you-go situation.
But if given a chance to finish the 2020 season, Hancock says College Station will be ready when the time comes.
“Every year we hope the way we plan out our schedule and our practices ... we just try to compete come district time,” Hancock said. “What we do with our early meets is preparation for that and along the way see improvement, and we just hope to be peaking come district time. With this situation it could be different this year, but that’s what we look for traditionally during the season.”