A sense of optimism surrounded senior Jack Fitzgerald and the rest of Binghamton’s track and field team for the upcoming outdoor season. Fitzgerald hoped to ride momentum from a successful indoor campaign to an important America East (AE) outdoor meet in May.
Fitzgerald’s winter accomplishments include finishing first place in the high jump at the Greg Page Relays on Dec. 7 and breaking his own school record (7-1 ¾ ft) at the Great Dane Classic on Jan. 11. The Ballston Spa, New York native was also runner-up in the AE Indoor Championships and the ECAC/IC4A Indoor Championships.
“The spring season was definitely something I was looking forward to,” Fitzgerald said. “After coming off that indoor season, the goal was to get an early qualifying jump for regionals and then start really training and gearing up to compete at a high level at the end of the season. But obviously, things didn’t pan out there.”
Fitzgerald’s hopes for the outdoor season were dashed with the NCAA’s March 12 decision to cancel all spring sports because of the coronavirus pandemic. At first, Fitzgerald said he didn’t think the season would get canceled, so he continued to train. But he eventually saw the writing on the wall when some schools, including Harvard, canceled their spring seasons.
He, along with other student-athletes, then had to come to terms with a new reality just as quickly as the season was taken away from them.
“The first day we didn’t have practice it kind of set in,” Fitzgerald said. “And once we left Binghamton, it really was just kind of in the rearview mirror.”
Fitzgerald said adapting hasn’t been too challenging for him. But he acknowledged a “weird feeling” knowing the team was supposed to compete in the AE Championships in Vermont this weekend. Instead, “[the team] has been home for a month.”
Though most of the team is set to return in 2021, the future of some seniors has been thrown up in the air after the NCAA granted spring student-athletes an extra year of eligibility in 2021. While some have decided to take advantage of the change, including senior Matt Baker, others like Fitzgerald have prior commitments preventing them from returning.
“For me personally, I’ve already committed to the military, and next month I’ll be attending officer school,” Fitzgerald said. “So for me that’s not really an option.”
Like Fitzgerald, thousands of seniors across the country have seen their careers end in an abrupt fashion. Most have spent their whole lives training at their craft, but will not have the chance to enjoy one last hurrah with their teammates. However, that hasn’t stopped Fitzgerald and fellow track and field seniors from staying connected. Fitzgerald said they have been playing new sports and distance running to bond while separated.
“We downloaded Strava apps that keep track of our lifts and our runs and everyone’s competing on that,” Fitzgerald said. “So it’s been a different vibe, but we’re sticking together through sports as usual and through competing with each other as usual.”
It’s with some of these same people that Fitzgerald has built some of his favorite memories over the past four years. He said the favorite part of his track and field career was his highly competitive and motivated teammates and his coaching staff who always pushed for improvement.
Still, with a spring senior season or not, Fitzgerald doesn’t seem prime to look back too often.
“We don’t have much to regret,” Fitzgerald said. “A lot of us had really good careers here. We’ve enjoyed our time and that made it easier to walk away.”