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Brian Boyd, Editor, Shore Publishing/Zip06.com

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July 8, 2020
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Senior captain Ben Crair was ready to lead the Guilford boys’ outdoor track squad to a successful in 2020. Crair qualified for the Class MM State Championship in the 3,200 during his junior year. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier

Senior captain Ben Crair was ready to lead the Guilford boys’ outdoor track squad to a successful in 2020. Crair qualified for the Class MM State Championship in the 3,200 during his junior year. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)

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Senior Clara Wiesler enjoyed an outstanding career as a distance runner with the Indians, even though she didn’t get to compete in her final campaign this spring. File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier

Senior Clara Wiesler enjoyed an outstanding career as a distance runner with the Indians, even though she didn’t get to compete in her final campaign this spring. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)

Guilford Track Was Up for the Task This Spring

Published May 11, 2020 • Last Updated 12:14 pm, May 11, 2020

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The Guilford High School outdoor track and field program was motivated to succeed in 2020. Coming off of a rebuilding year in 2019, the Indians’ boys’ and girls’ teams were ready to take charge on the strength of a senior class that was built to perform under pressure.

“Seniors tend to improve dramatically, especially seniors as motivated as this group has been,” boys’ Head Coach George Cooksey said. “Their times in indoor track and field looked very promising. The fact that so many qualified for the SCC and MM State championships boded well for us. We expected to finish at or near the very top in the 4x800, 4x400, 800, 1,600, and 3,200 on the track and in the javelin in the field events.”

Unfortunately, the Indians’ aspirations for the 2020 season will never come to pass following the cancellation of the campaign due to COVID-19. Coach Cooksey feels bad for his athletes, especially seniors like Ben Crair, who was voted a captain for Guilford’s cross country and track squads. Last year, Crair qualified for the SCC Championship in the 1,600 and the 3,200 and also made the Class MM State Championship in the 3,200.

“Ben has embodied the student-athlete ideal from the moment he began his legendary career at Guilford,” Coach Cooksey said. “In fact, his absolute commitment to excellence in academics and athletics has earned him, among a host of other awards, a Student-Athlete Award from the CIAC and the distinction of being the Guilford valedictorian for the Class of 2020. Ben has won tremendous respect from his teammates and coaches.”

Along with Crair, fellow seniors McKendry Eschinger and Matthew Gribbon are two other standouts for the boys’ team. Eschinger competed in the 800 and 1,600, as well as the 400, the 4x400 relay, and 4x800 relay. Gribbon is a sprinter who participated in a variety of events ranging from the 100 to the 400.

“McKendry has been a leader in every dimension of our outdoor track and field operation,” said Cooksey. “Not only has he proven himself an exceptional runner, he has also been the driving force behind creating and pushing forward a new team uniform and other gear designed for the team.”

Eschinger dealt with a season-ending knee injury in his sophomore year, forcing him to undergo a long rehabilitation process. He came back stronger and faster for his junior season and qualified for the SCC Championship in the 400, in addition to running with his teammates in the 4x400 and 4x800 relays. Eschinger and his relays also competed at Class MM State Championship.

“Over the last three years, Mac been our most reliable and, usually, our fastest relay performer,” Cooksey said. “Mac has a knack for rising to the occasion when the stakes are highest. He’s a resilient athlete.”

Coach Cooksey was also complimentary of Gribbon, commending the senior for his commitment to the sport, as well as his willingness to consistently give a 100-percent effort.

“All four years, Matthew has given his all in every practice and at every meet. He is passionate about learning every aspect of sprinting, from technique coming out of the starting blocks to his finishing form,” said Cooksey. “He’s one of the few athletes who pushed for work on technique, often asking for feedback to improve his form.”

Other seniors who were ready to lead the way this season included Cameron Hubbard, Griffin Hughes, Jacob Shiffrin, Ben Van Keuren, Charles Walcott, and Cade Yerkes. Hubbard qualified for SCC Championship and Class MM State Championship with 4x400 quartet last year. Hughes was also a state qualifier, competing in the 4x800 relay. Shiffrin is known for his distance running and was the Indians’ quickest runner in the 3,200, qualifying for states in the event.

Van Keuren qualified for SCCs in the 1,600 in his sophomore and junior years and was hoping to make states as a senior. Walcott was entering his first season with the team following a standout career on the football field. Yerkes joined the team last season and immediately made his mark in the 100 and 200, qualifying for SCCs and states in both races.

Looking ahead to next season, Guilford will feature a host of talented underclassmen who are primed to take control of the team. This includes athletes like sophomores Thomas Gregory, Justin Shiffrin, Jaylen Dolmus, and Ian Rose.

“Thomas qualified for the 400 and 800 at SCCs and Class MMs last year and was our fastest 400-meter runner,” said Cooksey. “He was also our second fastest 800-meter runner at the varsity level last year as a freshman.”

On the girls’ side, Head Coach Jon Rivera also felt confident that the Indians were in good shape to have a strong season. Rivera, who was entering his 12th year with the Indians, expressed his disappointment that the campaign was canceled, but understood why the CIAC made the decision it did.

“In terms of the season not starting and then ultimately not happening, it was very disappointing,” Rivera said. “We had a difficult season last year and were looking for a bounce back and truly believed we were set up to.”

Senior Clara Wiesler was slated to lead the Indians’ distance runners this spring. Coach Rivera also said that junior Zoe McClure is on the brink of becoming a superstar in the field events, specifically the triple jump. McClure was the Indians’ lone State Open qualifier and received the team’s Most Improved Player Award last season. Rivera was looking forward to watching Wiesler, McClure, and several up-and-coming athletes make an impact in 2020.

“We had a lot of freshmen trying out this year and preseason was going great with a young motivated group,” said Rivera. “Our sport is tough, because there is no recreation or club season. It’s track, and that’s it. For certain events, that’s your only chance to compete.”

With the 2020 season off the table, both coaches are looking to regroup for next year. Like Rivera, Coach Cooksey wishes that his seniors could go out on their own terms.

“I’ve had a few Zoom sessions with them, and they’re certainly disappointed,” said Cooksey. “I know they are all going to succeed in the future. I just wish they could have had a final season to remember.”

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