No one could have imagined cross country looking so different this year from the last. There are no more hugs and high-fives at the finish line, practice times are cut short to a measly hour, runners are masked up, and the season is down to only four races, thanks to COVID-19. Although routines are adjusted, everyone is making the best of the situation and sticking to the CIAC guidelines.
At practice, athletes arrive masked up and socially distanced to eliminate the spread of germs between individuals.
“It’s the biggest adjustment we have to make,” Coach Jeff Lownds explained. “We have to be masked up and we have to be socially distanced, but if we want to have a season, those are the things we have to do.”
Before practice begins, athletes are asked a series of COVID-19 related questions, to ensure that everyone is safe and healthy.
“Every practice has to start with a covid screening,” captain Nicholas Santavasi explained. “It’s followed by shortened warm ups and stretches because of the shorter practice time, which also means we can’t do as much running as we usually would.”
Regardless of adjusted practice times, Lownds schedules a variety of workouts targeting different areas that athletes will encounter during each race. This regiment highlights the importance of conditioning since there haven’t been sports since March.
“We still do our hill work; we still do our interval training; we still do our distance running,” Lownds said. “It’s just that we have to modify the amount of time that we use to get those things in place.”
Although practice times have been shortened, the team keeps a positive attitude and stays thankful for what they have at this moment.
“I’m looking forward to having a season,” Lownds said. “We have four meets scheduled; there may not be anything after that, but we want to give our athletes, who really deserve it, as much of an experience as we can.”
Despite social distancing policies, the team continues to be a united and close-knit family. This year, many of the team’s favorite team-bonding traditions were canceled but the team’s dynamic hasn’t changed. The annual beach run, lunch at the Glenwood Drive-In, invitational meets, Stew Leonard shenanigans, pasta parties, and dinner at the trifecta were canceled but the team still managed to keep some traditions and make new ones.
“We all have our group text and we have sisters every year, so we are still keeping those traditions,” captain Jaden Young said. “We’re all very close outside of the team as well, so we’ve all become good friends over the years.”
On the girls’ side, each girl gets paired up with another to be their sister, and they decorate their lockers, bring them post-race treats and gifts, and motivate each other to do their best. On the boys’ side, after practice they stay in touch gaming together and communicating in their group messages.
“We haven’t had a lot of things like we normally have,” captain Noah Behrle explained. “But we play games after school and we’re communicating a lot more than we did in past years.”
Although this season didn’t go exactly as planned, the team stays positive and appreciates the time they have as a family. They look forward to the rest of the season’s races and practices ahead of them.
“We have to be grateful that we even have a season and are able to run and compete with a team,” captain Brooke Iannone said. “Even though it’s different and there are obstacles and challenges, I’m glad that we’re here as a team and are able to train and compete together.”