Coaches challenged to cover 2,020 miles in memory of lost season

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Courtesy of Richie Mercado

The SJS Track & Field team at last year’s SPC championship.

Cameron Ederle, Staff Writer

When the St. John’s athletics coaches heard that the spring sports season had officially been cancelled due to COVID-19, the news, although expected, was a tough blow to take. 

“I was disappointed, especially for the seniors,” boys’ cross country and track coach Richie Mercado said. “They had already cancelled all NCAA sports, so it was not likely that [the season] was going to happen, but it was still frustrating.”

Coming off a four-point victory at the Maverick Relays, track coach Kathy Halligan was excited for a successful track season. When schools and sports began to close down, she remained optimistic until the very end, when SPC was officially canceled.

“I refused to accept that our season was over until we heard news from Dr. Desjardins and Mr. Arduini,” Halligan said. “The news was a punch in the gut.”

Coaches throughout SPC felt deeply saddened, especially for the seniors who wouldn’t get to finish their last high school athletic season. 

“Even now, if I think of the enormity of the loss these kids are going through, I become emotional,” Halligan said. “So many goals, dreams, memories and record-breaking opportunities stripped away.”

SPC coaches began formulating ways to commemorate the sudden conclusion to the season. John Cooper School athletic director John Hoye came up with an idea that quickly gained traction throughout the coaching network: a coaches’ challenge to run, bike or walk a collective 2,020 miles on May 2, the date that would have been the final day of the spring SPC tournament. 

Halligan was enthusiastic about the opportunity to honor the seniors whose final season as Mavericks was cut short. 

“Since the coaches’ challenge was taking place on Saturday, my plan was to re-create the final day of the SPC Championship Track Meet,” Halligan said. “I would run and walk for the length of the meet with a start time of 10:00 a.m. and a finish time at 2:30 p.m.”

Halligan had lots of support from her family and fellow coaches as she finished her 20.20 mile-trek in honor of the 2020 spring season. But Halligan’s day wasn’t over yet. 

“After a nice long shower, I sat on my couch, when an email from Mr. Arduini popped up on my phone,” Halligan said. When she saw that St. John’s was not winning, “the wheels in my brain started spinning and the competitive juices started flowing.”

At around 5:30, Halligan and her brother Kenneth Halligan, who coaches Maverick baseball, got back on the road and biked until dark, completing an additional 25 miles each. In total, the Halligans contributed 84.6 miles. 

The next morning, Halligan and her brother were ecstatic to hear that the St. John’s coaches had completed 486.9 miles, winning the competition by just 2.45 miles. 

Halligan said that participating in the competition gave her and the other coaches a sense of dedication and motivation to participate on behalf of the seniors. 

We were a team. We were challenged. We wanted to win,” Halligan said. “Whether a coach logged three miles or 30 miles, every mile mattered. Our coaches were amazing.” 

Having gained a sense of closure for the 2020 spring season, the coaches already started thinking about the fall.

“The school is doing a great job at planning contingencies,” Mercado said. “Some sports are not just well suited for social distancing. We hope sports go on in the fall, but nothing is guaranteed.”

Mercado hopes that school and athletic programs will be mostly back to normal by next spring, but he is preparing for all possible outcomes.

“Next month, we’ll know a little bit more, but will we know six months into the future? Probably not yet,” Mercado said. “Everything changes.”

Watch the 2020 Maverick Athletic Ceremony here.