After earning All-State in cross country last fall, Cheshire High School senior Ryan Farrell had high hopes for his indoor track season.
He was training with a coach to get ready, but an announcement changed his mindset on Jan. 14. The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference said that track and field athletes could practice skill workouts, but due to the Connecticut Department of Public Health having health concerns over multi-team meets, schools were told that they couldn’t compete until at least March.
On Feb. 18, the CIAC announced that track and field teams could start competing with safety protocols on March 1, but by that time, Farrell had decided to leave the state for competition.
“I was going to wait and see what happens, but then I saw online that events were being held elsewhere,” reflected Farrell, who holds the CHS boys’ 600-meter record (1:23.54) from winning the 2020 State Open title. “I looked for meets that didn’t require you to run in masks.”
While excited to run in three meets, Farrell said that it was a hard decision to not compete in his senior season for CHS boys’ head coach Pam Gunneson.
“I wouldn’t be the track or cross country runner I am without her,” stated Farrell.
His track season got off to a tough start in the East Coast Invite held Feb. 5-6 at the Virginia Beach Sports Center. Farrell was told that he would be running at 10:30 p.m., but his race ended up being moved to 9 p.m.
He rushed over to make the start, but was disappointed to place 20th (52.42).
“When I got there, I wasn’t allowed to warm up or go to the bathroom before my race,” reflected Farrell. “It was very frustrating.”
The experience motivated him to have a big performance on Feb. 28 at the same site. In Adidas Indoor Nationals, Farrell earned first place in the 800-meters (1:57.68).
“I just wanted to get a medal because they looked cool,” reflected Farrell, who is waiting for his gold medal to be sent to him. “I was in the second fastest heat. One of the kids took the first lap out in 56 (seconds), so I sat on him and waited to make my move at the end.”
Last weekend, Farrell wrapped up with a trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for the National Scholastic Athletic Foundation USA Meet of Champions. On Saturday, he placed third (50.59) in the 400-meter Emerging Elite race, finishing less than a second from the winning time of 49.71.
On Sunday, he placed second (1:55.92) in the 800-meters.
“I think this field was one of the most stacked groups I’ve run against in my life,” reflected Farrell. “This kind of competition will help me when I run in college.”
Farrell didn’t wear a mask in his races, but wore one when he was around people. For his events, Farrell also had to pass COVID-19 tests.
“They only took 10 minutes, which is the fastest test I’ve taken,” Farrell said.
After returning to Connecticut, he passed another test to be able to return to CHS and join the boys’ outdoor track and field team.
“We have a young group with a lot of guys wanting to step up this year,” stated Farrell. “I’m looking forward to starting the season.”
Due to the pandemic, the 2020 season was canceled, so Farrell is excited to be back outdoors this spring.
“To not run last year was heartbreaking because we had a great 4x800-meter relay group ,” stated Farrell. “Now that we have a full season, I can’t wait to get back to it.”
Allen Dvarskas will start his second stint coaching the Rams this year. He stepped down at the end of the 2019 season, but when Head Coach Alyson Caron recently chose to stop coaching, Dvarskas returned to his former position.
“I’m happy to have him as a coach,” stated Farrell. “He is a hilarious guy and I love working with him.”
While he has excelled in middle distance, Farrell plans to try the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races this season.
He has drawn considerable interest from college programs, but hasn’t made a decision yet.
“I’m going to start the season and then look to choose a school in late April or early May,” said Farrell.