The lost memories: Central Bucks West, Pennridge seniors miss track and field but march on

The school record was his.

Kevin Guevara had no doubts.

The Central Bucks West senior was just about to embark on a very memorable spring season, his final one in a Bucks uniform.

But then came the shutdown.

“At first, it felt like a vacation,” he said, “and now it feels unreal. I never would have thought something like this would happen. It feels like a dream sometimes but I’m starting to get used to it.”

In accordance with Governor Wolf’s announcement that Pennsylvania schools will be closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the school year, the PIAA cancelled all remaining winter and spring sports and championships.

“You don’t realize you love something so much until it’s gone,” said Guevara, an ace thrower for the Bucks. “I miss spring season so much because of the competitions and my teammates. I wish I could be throwing in competitions right now, especially since it’s my senior year and after this year I won’t be competing with all the guys anymore.”

The Bucks are an annual force in the tough and highly competitive Suburban One League Continental Conference.

And Guevara was sure to rack up points in the field events.

“My coaches did a very good job on giving us workouts to do,” Guevara said. “My throwing coach gave us workout plans for the time we will be out of competitions. With gyms being closed, I improvised workouts but have made it work.”

Despite the shutdown, the Bucks found a way to stay in touch.

“We have a big group chat where we talk on a daily basis, especially us seniors,” Guevara said. “We share memories and pictures of previous years.”

Guevara had big goals in mind when the spring rolled around.

In addition to breaking the school record of 172 feet, 6 inches in the discus, he was aiming for a third conference title in both the shot put and discus.

He was hoping to be a key piece of a team vying for the conference title.

Asked what he likes best about the sport, the senior said: “The new family you make. We Central Bucks West track and field athletes and coaches are a big family and we will always have that bond.”

Guevara will be competing again – he plans to continue his athletic and academic career next year.

“Wherever I go,” he said, “I can’t wait to see what we can do as a team.”

Roman Katona sprints for Central Bucks West in a meet in 2019. Submitted Photo.

Life in the fast lane >> Roman Katona is a speedster for the Bucks, a versatile senior who can do the sprints and middle distance events.

He’s worked hard at filling the void left by the cancellation.  

“The last few weeks have been a bit boring, but i’m getting used to it by now,” he said. “It has been great to have lots of time with my family at home, keeping ourselves occupied with fun activities. “Running has been my main activity each day to keep me busy and outside of the house. Mostly I have just had lots of time to either catch up on projects, start new ones, or find new hobbies to try.”

Much like Guevara, Katona was juiced for senior year.

“This senior season meant a lot for me and my teammates,” he said. “We had a lot of good things coming together towards the end of winter heading into the spring season after two state medals. I know myself, along with my team, had so much potential for what we could do.”

CB West has a proud tradition in track and field, and Katona and the boys were intent on adding their own personal stamp to it.

“We were just getting into CB West’s dominant track groove when we had to stop,” he said. “We all talk about how more than anything, we all wanted to get back to practice. I’m very proud of what me and my team did at our last meet (in indoors).

“It was our last Indoor State Championship and our race was the last of the day, so I actually took an extra lap around the track to cool down afterwards. I was the only one running on the track at that point and I did it so I could soak in the experience of that great meet and just what we accomplished as a team. I never thought it could possibly be my last time running as a high school athlete.”

The Bucks never stopped preparing for the season, dreaming of those big races in the sunshine.

“I am very fortunate to have a great coaching staff who keeps us in the loop and updated almost daily,” Katona said.”My coach (Greg Wetzel) has been sending out different workouts for the whole team to be doing, which is very helpful for us to still be coached by them from a distance. They also set up microsoft forms for us to fill out weekly to let him know what we have accomplished with our training, as well as just being able to ask him questions and start discussions both about track and daily life.

“Since I haven’t been able to get on any tracks,” Katona said, “I have used a nice stretch of a back road next to my house that I have worked out on, mixed with occasional long runs and hill workouts. It has also made it easy with the nice weather to get outside. Core and lifting have also been a huge part of my routine.”

Being separated from his team has been tough to endure.

“We’re a really close team,” the senior said, “even with our girls team, so not seeing everyone every day is probably the hardest part. I have also been putting my own workouts together and my teammates and I share what we’ve done with each other to continually enhance our workouts and be able to push each other even if we can’t run together.”

Just like Guevara, Katona was focused in on doing some rewriting to the West record book.

“I had goals of running the 200 and 400 school records at West,” Katona said. “Some of my other teammates also needed this season for recruitment, so I feel bad for them as well. I also hoped to bring my team back to states again and win some more races with them one last time.

“I was really just excited to have a good senior season and be running my fastest times of my career.”

There has been plenty of time to reflect.

“This shutdown has definitely made me want to see my team and coaches much more. You don’t realize the valuable time you get to spend with all your friends every day, doing something you all love being a part of,” Katona said. “I think motivation to continue training gets more difficult with each passing week, but being hopeful for some sort of season kept us training, as well as setting goals for ourselves along the way.”

The Bucks were looking forward to their Senior Night track meet and their season-ending banquet.

Those won’t take place this year, but there are components to track and field that Katona and the Bucks will take with them forever.

“I think track and field is really unique for the way it combines team and individual participation into one sport,” Katona said. “I played five other sports before I had even tried track for the first time, which I think gave me a taste of them all to see what I liked the most and could excel in best. Track can also be practiced by itself, throughout your whole life I may add, and always finds a way to make me feel better.”

For Katona, there’s nothing better than the race, the pursuit…

“The thrill of competing and adrenaline going through you during a race is amazing too, especially during relays with a team around you where you can all accomplish your shared goals together,” he said. “I have an amazing team and we have had such great runners every year and before that I have been on the team.

“They all taught me so much and made me love the sport even more. The rewards from our hard work is by far what I appreciate the most from the sport. Not only winning races and the medals around our necks but our team coming together to accomplish great things. I get to see skills like leadership and responsibility emerge out of my teammates by them always wanting to push harder every day to reach their full potential and it is great to see us come together over the years.”

Katona will continue his career next year at Marist College in New York.

“I am happy to say that I will be. They have a great coach and facilities and I got to meet a good portion of the guys on the team and I am really excited to be able to take my career to the next level there,” he said. “For me, I am lucky enough to be able to do what I love for at least another four years, but my heart goes out to not just my team, but all athletes who won’t be able to due to a season cut short.”

Paul Nicholas runs hard for Central Bucks West in 2019. Submitted Photo.

Out of the shadows >> Paul Nicholas was intent on making a name for himself this spring.

“My main goal for senior year was to be one of the top guys on the team,” he said. “I have always been in the shadow of my older teammates and have never had a real chance to prove myself.

“To change that, I told myself at every practice this year to focus on being great and to strive to be a leader. These affirmations helped be on two relays for winter states, where we placed sixth for the 4×8 and 4×4.”
Once the shutdown kicked in, maintaining a daily rhythm was tough.

“The last few weeks have been difficult to adjust to because I no longer have my normal routine of school and sports,” Nicholas said. “There have been many times in high school where I found myself overwhelmed with school, track and work, but I somehow managed to balance it all and I miss the rewarding feeling of a successful day and week.”

For Nicholas, expressing the disappointment is no easy task.

“If I could put my disappointment about the outcome of my senior season into words, I would,” he said. “The most I can say is that I am understanding of the situation, but wish that I could have one more season to prove myself.”
Nicholas hit the streets with purpose, getting his workouts in with a tremendous amount of anticipation.

“I have been trying to get a four-plus mile run in at least two to three times a week, as well as one or two middle distance workouts in,” he said. “These workouts consist of either 150’s for speed development, 600’s for endurance training, or some type of time trial to get an idea of our progress.

“All of this sounds nice but it is nothing close to what we did before together as a team.”

Nicholas stayed in touch with his teammates through Snapchat and texts. But it didn’t compare to seeing them every day.

“I would give anything,” he said, “to be battling for meet victories and to be fighting through painful training sets at practice.

“I think the thing I like best about this sport is that it has some individual competition aspects to it, but to win, the entire team must strive for greatness together. I have made life-long friends through this sport and have learned so much about myself. The greatest lesson that this sport has taught me is that hard work is everything and that limitations are self-imposed. This sport has taught me that if you want something, you have to go out and get it.”
Nicholas will take what he learned and experienced in track and field into other areas of his life.

“I have considered running in college, but I have chosen not to,” he said. “I love the sport, but I believe that it is time for me to start a new chapter in my life, and collegiate sports would make it hard for me to do that.

“I plan on still continuing my training, but at a less intense pace.”

Lexi Kirk runs a relay for Pennridge in 2019. Submitted Photo.

Coming on strong >> Over at Pennridge High, Lexi Kirk did everything she could to enhance her spring season.
In fact, her hard work started in the fall, when she ran cross country for the first time to help build up her stamina even further.

“Lexi has come a long way in both performance and leadership,” said her cross country and track coach, Bill Smith. “Her goal was to have a great season running the 300 hurdles. She ran cross country to help with her strength and ended up running on the varsity in her first year.

“She improved her 400 in winter track and was set for the spring. She also was a winter track captain and learned a lot about what it takes to be a leader. She was a captain for the spring. I know this is devastating for her. I have no doubts that she will bounce back and do a great job at Bloomsburg.”

Kirk looks forward to continuing her career at Bloomsburg, and despite the cancellation of the spring season, she goes in with a lot of momentum.

“I really grew as an individual and performer,” she said of her years at Pennridge. “When I first started as a sophomore, I wasn’t as serious as I am now.

“The coaches told me I could be better if I really tried. I loved finishing a race and being able to feel like you worked really hard and accomplished something.”

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