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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports >  High school sports

Cheney track coach Derek Slaughter creates virtual track meet

The Cheney boys track and field team celebrates after winning the 2018 State 2A title in Tacoma. (Cheney Athletics / Courtesy)
The Cheney boys track and field team celebrates after winning the 2018 State 2A title in Tacoma. (Cheney Athletics / Courtesy)

While there won’t be any track meets in person for the foreseeable future, a local coach came up with what might be the next-best thing.

Taking social distancing to heart, and using his technology skills, Cheney boys cross country and track and field coach Derek Slaughter created the 2020 Social Distance Virtual Track Meet.

The idea is for athletes – of all ages – to time or measure themselves competing while practicing safe social distancing in one of 17 events, then upload their results to the meet’s website.

Since officials won’t be there to judge or certify, athletes will be competing under the honor code.

Slaughter said the idea came to him, naturally, while he was on a run.

“As a teacher and a coach, I had do something to get my kids healthy and motivated,” he said, noting that although school is out and a shelter-in-place order is in effect, the state hasn’t canceled playoffs or the state meet yet.

Slaughter said he had heard of virtual 5Ks and 10Ks, and figured that could be a way to keep his athletes in shape in case they get a chance to compete later this spring.

“I was like, ‘Can I adapt that to work with our current situation?’ ”

He took his knowledge of building websites and combined that with the necessary elements and events for a track meet, and the idea became a reality.

His idea has been met with enthusiasm, and as with everything else on the internet, some criticism.

The biggest concern he’s met so far is one of miscommunication about safety in the pandemic.

“The one thing that we’ve been getting hit with is that people don’t look at the website and don’t read the instructions and are thinking we’re telling people to go out and meet up to do this,” he said.

“I’m trying to reassure them. I’m saying no, this is not built out of out of trying to get people in trouble. This is trying to give people hope.”

Slaughter stressed that athletes of any age can still work out and exercise during the shelter-in-place, but just be smart about it.

“On the website, I explicitly say, ‘Follow the governor’s guidelines. Don’t meet up.’ ”

Slaughter suggests people who want to participate can do sprints in the street, or long-distance running on a treadmill, a standing broad jump in the garage or driveway, or throw the shot put in the back yard.

“There’s plenty of places I can go and run a mile and socially distance and not hurt anyone,” he said.

The other issue that some have brought up is eligibility, but Slaughter contacted the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association for its OK.

“I talked to other coaches to see if they thought it was a good idea. And they all came back and said, ‘Yeah, this is gonna be great.’

“It’s gonna add to motivation. It’s going to get kids thinking about their health and training through this.”

Slaughter has arranged vendors for T-shirts and awards, just like a real track meet.

“I thought about how I could incorporate them into this so that they can benefit as their small businesses are suffering through this,” he said.

“Not only will my kids benefit by participating, but also our small businesses that we work with year in and year out will benefit as well.”

Slaughter said he originally thought about the idea just for his team, but that was just for “a split second.”

“It’s on the internet. Someone in Canada, someone in China, you know, someone across the globe could participate in this because all it takes is a treadmill, a meter stick, someone you know measuring your 1-pound soup can (toss). You can do this with your family.

“It doesn’t have to be just the Cheney community. We’re a running community, a track community. We care about each other. It’s not like, ‘Oh, I can only have this for my kids.’ It’s more about, ‘How can everyone benefit from this in this time of uncertainty?’ ”

Slaughter said there are no restrictions on the type of athlete that can sign up.

“I want to expand it past track kids,” he said. “Soccer kids got shut down too, and basketball kids, and any kid that isn’t doing anything right now. Basketball kids could excel in the standing high jump. Soccer kids can run a great 400.

“So if you’re bored at home, just go out and do it.”

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