Fall Sports and the New Guidelines

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Senior Zachary Iaconis takes a smooth swing off the tee box on Air Academy High School’s home course on the Air Force Academy, Eisenhower Golf Course.

It’s the dog days of August. Blistering heat, hay, dust, and the smell of horse manure wafts through the air.

Yes, it’s the tie of the annual Cheyenne Mountain Stampede Cross Country Invitational, synonymous with the struggle of allergies, dust, uphill terrain, a creek crossing, and a loud crowd gathering in the stands of Norris Penrose Event Center’s stadium seats.

Parents, coaches, and runners in past years have lined the course. Teammates have run to the back stretches to cheer for their team.

But something is different this year in the era of COVID-19. Parents are not allowed on Norris Penrose Event Center’s grounds; however, the Bear Creek Park portion of the course is public land, so, technically people are allowed to be in the park at the same time as the event. Still, coaches discourage the presence of parents.

In addition to cross country events, other fall sports are also feeling the changes due to the pandemic. While many of us are saddened by the lack of a traditional season, I believe we should be grateful that we have a season and encourage all athletes to stay positive.

Softball is another sport that has experienced some changes due to the pandemic. Parents are allowed to sit outside the outfield in the back of the diamond, socially distanced with masks on, of course.

Senior Cedric Orton Urbina tells that tennis parents are only allowed at some of the matches. Regionals will only allow parents, the state tournament will allow no spectators at all, and for regular-season games, when not on the Air Force Academy, parents have to social distance and wear masks.

For cross country, masks are required at all times except when running, check in’s are necessary before practice or competition.

Every day, before practice or competition, athletes of all sports are asked:

“In the last 14 days, have you been in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID or had COVID symptoms without wearing PPE? Have you developed a dry cough, fever, or shortness of breath in the last 72 hours? Do you have two or more of the following symptoms that are new in the last 72 hours: chills, muscle aches, severe headache, sore throat, runny nose not from allergies, vomiting, diarrhea loss of smell or loss of taste?”

(Left to right) Sophomore Chloe Fair, Sophomore Zoe Lachnidt, Sophomore Ella Churra, Senior Brooke Moss, Freshman Bethany Michalak, Senior Olivia Novie pose with their winner’s belt buckles after winning the Cheyenne Mountain Stampede Cross Country Invitational at Norris Penrose Event Center on September 11th, 2020.

Although, this check-in system fits the guidelines set in place for the safety of athletes, does it actually help? Have other modifications to sports been successful or do they just fit the guidelines? What could be different, but would be more efficient or less intrusive (in some cases) to the sports?

“We have to wear our masks at all times except when we are running, we also need to maintain social distancing while running. There aren’t as many teams allowed at races, and spectators aren’t allowed at most competitions and we start races in waves. The changes are hard to adapt to but honestly, we didn’t know if we were even going to have a season so we’re all pretty lucky that we are competing right now,” said senior cross country veteran Brooke Moss.

Much like cross country, golf has equal parts individual and team aspects, all for the end goal of as few points as possible for victory. Athletes in these two sports tend to not spend as much time close together.

Of course, the same could be said about softball and tennis; however, both include an area for the players not actively playing to rest, congregate, recover, etc.

“We have only scrimmaged ourselves instead of playing different high schools in a tournament. We also had to social distance and wear masks until we were given the ‘good to go’ to take our masks off after a series of questions. We don’t wear masks while we play and we social distance but we cannot touch rakes or the pin and the holes are sort of filled so you can remove the balls without touching the holes and pin,” said 4-year senior golfer Parker Embaugh.

This fall, so far, softball has been the only sport not allowed to have home games on base, the rest are only not allowing spectators. Freshman Kiley Valdez emulates a positive attitude about this on behalf of herself and her teammates.

The varsity softball team during their game at Pueblo South High School, which they won.

“Some changes that have been made to softball due to COVID are having to wear masks when not playing and not able to do huddles at any point,” Valdez states. “Games have changed because we are not able to have our home games on base. I think our team is working very well together to try and get past this weird time in our season due to COVID. We are all adapting and changing some of the things that we have to do for the game.”

 

There was no trial run for these changes or their impact on sports and keeping COVID from infecting the athletes or staff. It’s reasonable for certain changes to work or not work. It would be assumed that opinions may vary on the matter. However, all athletes seem to be taking things in a positive way, or at least complying in order to do what they love.

“CHSAA has responded pretty well. I’m just grateful that we’re able and allowed to compete this season seeing as a lot of other sports don’t have that opportunity right now. I’m not sure how effective the changes are, but we are following the rules although sometimes we are confused as to why some of the rules are there,” added Moss. 

As a cross country athlete myself, one could even argue that racing less is better for staying uninjured and performing well, college and pro runners don’t race nearly every week for 12 weeks. On the flip side, having fewer races does raise the stakes if running collegiately is an aspiration of a runner.

“[As far as the COVID resoponse] I would leave things how they are. We are still having a successful season even with these changes. We’re doing our part to keep playing softball,” said sophomore Kiley Valdez.

If an athlete was part of a spring sport that got canceled, their attitude about being able to play comes with higher regard than in the past. In some ways, this can benefit each player, team, and sport as a whole.

“Luckily, tennis really isn’t a contact sport so not too much has changed. Small things like having a can of balls assigned to use and not shaking hands after a match still take some getting used to. The team is still very close and is actually doing extremely well this year. I think the COVID response from the tennis team has been appropriate and still allows us to play the sport we love,” said senior tennis player Cedric Orton Urbina.

Senior Cedric Orton Urbina and his tennis partner freshman Asher Kiser playing a match at Doherty High School.

It seems to be the case that the Kadets involved in athletics at this point in the year are all appreciative of the work put in by CHSAA and whoever else was involved with making sure Colorado’s high school athletes get to play this fall and this year.

Anyone can gripe and complain about things we have to do in order to play, but we have to keep in mind that our seasons could end or be postponed at any moment due to even just one athlete at our own Air Academy High School or many other students elsewhere getting the virus.

Though things aren’t perfect or working as smoothly as they used to, it is important to make the most of every game, every race, and every practice. Let’s continue to work hard like us Kadets always have and do ’em proud!

SKO’DETS!