“She was one of our hardest workers, and it really is heartbreaking that we won’t be able to see what she could have done this season.”
Those were the words that Oswego State track and field coach Curtis Merrick had to say about Shaniece Gregory, one of the many senior athletes across the country who had their seasons cut short.
With Covid-19 being declared a global pandemic, on March 20, the NCAA made the decision to cancel all on-going spring sports, effectively ending the athletic careers of thousands of senior college athletes. One of those athletes was Shaniece Gregory, a runner for Oswego State who specialized in the 400 meter race.
Shaniece first started running in the seventh grade, when she joined her school’s cross country team, and later decided to give track a chance. She would run all year, alternating between cross country and track seasons, until her junior year of high school when she decided that she was going to specialize in track.
Coming into her freshman year at Oswego, Shaniece wasn’t sure if she even wanted to continue with her running career. For her final three years in highschool, she could not break her personal record of 61 seconds in the 400 meter race. She was frustrated and just needed a break, so she took it. After the year off she decided to give it another go, in hopes that with a renewed love for the sport she could finally best her personal record. As it would turn out, her decision paid off, as in her first season back she broke through the 61 second wall that was holding her back.
Once again though, entering her senior year, Shaniece was contemplating giving up running altogether.
“I wanted to focus on graduating and working. My teammates and coach Curtis convinced me to come back and I ended up having a fantastic indoor season, running my fastest indoor 400m time and breaking the school record for the 200m,” said Shaniece.
Following such an exceptional indoor season, expectations were considerably high for Shaniece to represent Oswego during the spring. All of that changed though, when just a week after the ending of the indoor season, her head coach emailed the team to inform them that the outdoor season would be cancelled.
While Shaniece was of course saddened by this news, she decided to take it in stride, something she has become quite good at. Not running and competing is nothing new for her. Having taken several breaks during the course of her track career, Shaniece has found hobbies outside of running, citing drawing and calligraphy as two of her favorites. She even said she doesn’t mind all of her time being consumed by track.
That is not to say that she won’t miss it however.
“What I think I’ll miss most about being an athlete at Oswego is going to meets, hanging out with my teammates on and off the track, and talking to other teams. When you compete with the same teams in your division for four years, you get to know the people in your events and create a special, competitive bond with them,” said Shaniece. Having a love for lifting, she also said she is going to miss being active in the weight room, hoping to find new activities to stay in good physical shape after the pandemic is over.
Shaniece was always close with her teammates, and being only one of five seniors on the team this year, was set to play an important role in setting an example for the underclassman.
“Shaniece has always been very motherly to me and the other teammates, she would often give tips to help us improve in our events and provide unconditional support…watching her motivated me to try and do better,” said Kayla Guerre, a sophomore also on the track and field team.
Shaniece has always had a very focused mentality, a trait that helps her on and off the track, and one that helps to inspire her teammates around her.
With the cancellation of the season Shaniece has been left wondering, what comes next? Coming into Oswego as a zoology major, she has always had a deep love for animals, but soon afterwards realized that becoming a zoologist wasn’t the right path for her. Her insightful nature is a part of what makes her such a cerebral runner, and she also attributes it to why she decided to change her course of study to a philosophy-psychology joint major, with a minor in creative writing. Not to fear though as she still has a deep love for animals, even planning to return to college after a year to get a seperate degree in dog training.
Shaniece does not have any regrets though. “I learned, I made mistakes, I realized more about myself and what I want to do with my life,” said Shaniece. If she HAD to pick one though, she said she just wishes she would have joined the track team during her freshman year at Oswego.
As devastating as the cancellation of Shaniece’s season was, she did not let it ruin the end of her senior year. Coming off having such a successful indoor season, while still sad, she says that she was content with the way things ended, and has even had much more time to stay up late, something I’m sure every college athlete is now taking advantage of.