Carlos Aragon also contributed to this article.

After running at full speed for the past few months, the Malden High Indoor Track Team has come to a bittersweet end, with the Girls Track Team winning the Greater Boston League (GBL) title for the season with a 6-1 record and the boys ending with a 4-3 record. 

Senior captain Leslie Rodriguez expressed that she felt pleased with the season as a whole, “I have seen so many kids improve, not only the veterans but also the new students who have worked so hard with what they have done."  

Rodriguez explained that COVID was constantly a challenge for the team and impacted them in ways they did not expect.

She went on to say that during the time when the GBL made the decision to put all winter sport meets and practices on hold due to the uptick in COVID cases, “it threw the team off because… it impacted the body in more ways than one.” As a result, the team had to recover from that week off. However, Rodriguez added that they regained what they had lost and continued to improve. 

Coach Michel-Le Meranda stated that COVID did not affect the team as much as other schools. “Coming back from break, we did have a number of people who were out because of COVID, whether they had it, a family member had it… a lot of people were missing, but the GBL shut down for a week to help alleviate that” which made COVID absences much less impactful. 

For Senior captain Marcos Ruiz, he mentioned that the team’s last meet, which was against Somerville, was ultimately bittersweet. He emphasized how there were many personal improvements that they could not overlook as the boys team faced a loss. In the end, Ruiz said that “it still counted as a loss which will always sting because I believe that our team can take on anybody in the conference.” 

Despite that, Ruiz acknowledged that every week “there was something new that I could be proud of about myself.” He stated that this could either be “winning another race and being able to help the team, or breaking a time barrier I never thought I would reach.” Consequently, “there was so much growth [and] it was incredible to see.” 

Rodriguez highlighted how some of her fondest memories from the season came from creating new friendships with other runners from the team. “Meeting new people outside of my grade has been great… and getting to know the underclassmen and helping them navigate track and high school has made this season so much better.”

Additionally, she said that watching the 4x400 relays and hearing the excitement from all of the team members for each other was thrilling. One memorable moment for Rodriguez was their last meet against Somerville at Revere High School. It was the team’s “away” senior night where the coaches honored all of the seniors. “It was such an unforgettable way to honor all of the seniors on our team and it was a sentimental moment.”

Meranda stated that one of her favorite moments from the season was when senior Jelani Garrett showed his progression from sophomore year, breaking his personal high jump best at 5’8. “Seeing him as a sophomore two years ago, not being able to clear opening height and now being able to jump at 5’8… I know that moment will live forever in his mind.”

Senior Cindy Nguyen added that running the meets would have to be one of the biggest highlights because “the gym was so lively, watching everyone run, especially the relays.” Additionally, in terms of the practices “there were some hard practices that really pushed us, but it made us all closer altogether.” 

Adding on to that thought, sophomore Shuyi Chen believes that a positive to the season was being able to build connections with other runners on the team, and “nothing feels better than running your best and knowing it.” Chen mentioned how being able to run at the GBL was an incredible experience because everybody was supportive and cheered.

“There's never just going to be a word that can describe how I feel about not being able to be a part of the team after this year,” Ruiz stated.

 He elaborated by saying that when he first started track, “there was such an allure to being part of the team.”

And soon enough, it did not take long for Ruiz to “realize that the team is a family and all these great people were willing to look at us and take them under their wing.” As a captain, he expressed that it makes him content to have the opportunity to do the same as past captains have done.

He believes that it is “going to come down to the work that the younger athletes put in through their time on the team.” Ruiz is hopeful that the underclassmen are going to “carry the team to a great future.”

Despite the uphill climb of COVID and having to do some heavy recruitment, the team managed to cross the finish line at full speed in a bittersweet ending to the 2021-2022 Indoor Track Season.

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