Tyson Long jumps a homemade hurdle made from patio chairs and a paddleboard paddle. PHOTO COURTESY OF AARON LONG

Virtual track meets begin this weekend

MOUNT DESERT — Aaron Long was out on a bicycle ride recently when he had an idea. 

The head coach of the Mount Desert Island High School track and field team wondered whether, along with all the other ways students and others are connecting virtually during the stay at home order, he could host a virtual athletic competition to inspire and motivate his student athletes and their fans. 

So the just-for-fun Virtual Track & Field Series was born. Long announced the plan on the MDI Track & Field Facebook page on March 30, which would have been the start of the high school outdoor track season. 

The competition includes seven events, for athletes from sixth grade through masters. They are shot put, discus, 100meters, 400 meters, one mile, long jump, 100-meter hurdles. Anyone competing in all seven will also be scored in a heptathlon. 

Athletes will time or measure results on the honor system, maybe with the help of a family member, and submit them to Long via email or Facebook Messenger. 

“Do your best with what you have to measure distances,” the rules and guidelines document states. It is understood that there will be some ‘-ish regarding implements weight, shape, and sizes, exact running distances, etc. Again, honor system, and do your best with what you have and can create. 

“Anyone who knows me will agree that I’m not really an art person,” Long told the Islander this week, “but this is where my creativity shines a little bit.” 

Practicing at his house, he’s created a discus using a rock taped to a frisbee. Tree limbs that have blown down in storms might make good makeshift hurdles.  

He noted that coaching track and field always involves creativity. In the indoor track season, for example, he has to figure out how to go about preparing athletes for races on a banked indoor track in the field house in Orono using only the hallways at the high school. 

Meets are set for April 11, 18 and 25, though they may be added or cancelled as the start date for any official high school sports season is announced or moved. The results should be recorded during the Friday, Saturday or Sunday surrounding each meet date. An athlete’s best mark for each event should be submitted by 3 p.m. Sunday. 

“Participants understand that they are ‘competing’ virtually and will practice guidelines and recommendations around social distancing,” “All AOS 91 school facilities are closed and not permitted to be used for any of these virtual meets” or for practicing. Runners are also reminded to run in well-lit areas and not in traffic. 

Prior to competing, athletes are asked to register by email. 

I’ve gotten contacts from a lot of kids and some adults” already, Long said Monday. He put the word out to his coaching contacts and has received signups from Mount Desert Island and beyond, including the Hampden area, Kennebunk, and even from Oregon where he went to high school. 

It’s been fun to network a little bit and realize this community extends really far distances,” he said. 

The whole goal is to help folks get and stay in shape and push themselves a bit. To be “active and feeling part of something,” he said. 


Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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