Virtual track: Thornton-Sherman snags pair of top-five finishes

Rising St. J Academy junior Evan Thornton-Sherman runs in a virtual 3,200 race recently at Ray Frey Track. (Photo by Michael Beniash)

When the spring sports season was canceled, athletes were left with no way to compete. Games were canceled, matches were called off, and meets were a thing of the past. But as Zoom meetings became popular, a new reality began to develop. If meetings were going virtual, why couldn’t sporting events be held the same way?

With track races of every level canceled, virtual events slowly began to take their place. For a group of SJA track athletes, this became their new reality.

Track athletes competing in the high school virtual nationals were required to qualify during one of three qualifying windows. The top 50 in each event would then run again between June 13 and June 19 in the finals. Runners completing distances from sprints to the 3200 had to submit a video of their run that also showed their time. 5,000-meter runners had to upload a GPS file.

On a warm Tuesday evening earlier this month, rising junior Evan Thornton-Sherman glided around the track. His mom, Jessica, called out his splits as he ran alone, eight times around the 400-meter track. Each lap was consistently between 70 and 72 seconds. With no one to push him or for him to chase (pacers were not allowed), Thornton-Sherman had to rely on his sense of time and pacing. It seemed to work. His time of 9:36.8 was nine seconds faster than his qualifying time for the 3,200. Two days before, he had blistered a 5,000 time of 14:35.1 (that’s around 4:42 per mile) that had him in the lead and gave everyone else in the country a time to beat.

Evan eventually finished in fifth place in the 3,200 and second in the 5,000. His time in the 5,000 was just six seconds behind the first-place finisher.

Earlier that day, Hazel Fay and Katie Ryan, also members of the Class of 2022, ran their final times for the 400 meters. Fay ran, followed by Ryan. With no one to pace them, the girls also had to figure out their timing and effort. If they had started together, they would have finished together. The two tied for 26th place with a time of 1:06.7.

Other SJA athletes competing in the virtual events were Nathan Lenzini (3,200), Luke Chadderdon (3,200) and Gabe Heath (800). On the girls side, Adele Bernier (1,500), Isidora Dickstein (1,500), and Jasmine Engle (800 and 1,500) competed. Fay also competed in the 100.

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