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Time on his hands, Shenendehowa track coach answers some ‘what-ifs?’

Rising to the Challenge

Time on his hands, Shenendehowa track coach answers some ‘what-ifs?’

Keith Jordan creates a virtual track meet for Shen teams through the years
Time on his hands, Shenendehowa track coach answers some ‘what-ifs?’
Shenendehowa assistant girls’ track coach Keith Jordan.
Photographer: Stan Hudy/For The Daily Gazette

CLIFTON PARK — During a typical spring, track and field athletes are racing against competitors in the lane next to them, the next jumper or thrower behind them, and always measuring themselves against the clock.

In those moments, they know if they are best or second best that day — but a question remains as to whether they might just be the best ever.

This spring, there have been no meets due to COVID-19 — and that spurred Shenendehowa girls’ track and field assistant coach Keith Jordan to come up with a creative way for Plainsmen athletes, of both the past and present, to face off in a virtual outdoor meet that pitted teams against one another from the past seven years.

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“It’s always a question from some of the kids, ‘How do you think we’d stand up against some of the other sectional [championship] teams?’ ” Jordan said. “We had won eight or nine sectionals in a row for outdoor track, and they always kind of ask, ‘Is this the best team you’ve ever had?’ ”

With COVID-19 forcing school closures, along with the closure of Fleet Feet in Malta, where he is the store manager, Jordan had an opportunity to find out.

“I thought about it a year ago and then I was in the same boat as others, sitting in my living room,” Jordan said. “I have both my kids back home working from the house, my wife working out of the house, but I’m bored. I have to do something.”

So he went through his shared database with Shenendehowa head coach Rob Cloutier and developed a virtual track meet, which put teams through the years in a bracketed format, and posted the results of those “matchups” each day on Twitter through the program’s social media account.

Rising to the Challenge: Faces of the COVID-19 crisis in the Capital Region

“I was getting texts from kids from four or five years ago, going ‘Oh my God! I can’t believe I beat her!’ It was funny,” Jordan said.

It offered fun for more than the kids. “I got a couple of emails from parents from way back, from 2014, saying ‘Thank you so much for doing this,’ ” Jordan said.

Cloutier said it has been difficult to go through a spring season without track meets. The virtual event offered a chance for the program to provide some fun for its athletes.

“I think it gave them something to look forward to in the monotony of being home, being isolated, doing all their runs by themselves right now,” said Cloutier, who used his social media account to tweet reactions to the virtual meet’s results. “Maybe it will make a little bit of a difference with having meets canceled. It’s a way to connect as a program.”

Recently, The Gazette caught up with Jordan via phone from the back porch of his Clifton Park home.

Q: When did you become a track and field coach at Shenendehowa?

A: I taught at the Brown School in Schenectady and was coaching over there. In 2012, [Cloutier] asked me if I was interested in coaching at Shen. I leave Fleet Feet at 2:45 p.m. every day, and then I go to Shen to coach. I do all three seasons [cross country, indoor and outdoor track] on the girls’ side.

Q: Where did you get all your information for this virtual track meet?

A: Rob and I have all the results from when I started in 2012. We have stats and use www.section2harrier.com, milesplit.com and tullyrunners.com. I can look back on any meet and pull it up.

Q: You created an eight-team, single-elimination bracket with each year’s outdoor squad and ranked them. How hard was that?

A: I ranked them just by who I thought might have won.

Q: Were there any surprises in your process?

A: I thought 2015 and 2016 were going to be the strongest groups. … I thought it was going to be one of those two to make the finals. 

 

Q: But?

A: There was an upset. A No. 5 (2017) beat a No. 4 (2018), and then a No. 6 (2019) beat a No. 3. (2014), but my No. 1 and No. 2 stood. (Note: In Jordan’s final calculation, the 2016 Plainsmen did defeat the 2015 squad, 248-241.)

Q: What was one of the more intriguing outcomes from these matchups through the years?

A: We had Olivia Robbins of 2016 defeating her younger self (2015) in the 100-meter hurdles. Then, Jill Shippee (2016) beat out her younger self in the shot, and Alex Tudor did the same in the long jump.

Q: Have you had any input from Shen track graduates about the virtual meet?

A: Two of the girls that are not running right now because they are done with college and this was their senior year texted me: “I can’t believe I’m going to say it, but you’ve made me start running again.”

Q: Do you have any other projects to work on during your time away from the sport?

A: I did a “Where are they now?” project. I sent out a questionnaire to 20 girls, based [on] section2harrier.com for each event. That included girls who have school records, and all of them responded to me.

Rising to the Challenge: Faces of the COVID-19 crisis in the Capital Region

Q: Do you have any other virtual meets planned?

A: I already finished the cross country one. I did one big race from 2012 to 2019, if they all ran it as that team with their [Saratoga Spa State Park] PRs [personal records] from that year and I’ve had one race. I already know who wins, but I don’t know if I’ll do it as a race or a bracket to spread it out and have updates. I’m still having fun with it. Indoor [track] is a very good possibility in my mind, and it can be done.

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