By Lesley Graham
As students at Ocean City High School have been adjusting to the new normal of virtual and hybrid learning, the fall athletes are looking forward to reclaiming their respective courts, courses and fields to fulfill a sense of life before the pandemic.
Protocols have been established to keep the students, staff and coaches safe and heathy during these uncertain times. All fall athletes went through a three phase program designed by the NJSIAA to slowly reintroduce fitness and keep the health and wellness of every individual involved in fall sports at the center of it all. Masks are worn when not engaging in aerobic exercise and six foot of spacing is required when not actively involved in drills, scrimmages, etc.
Certified Athletic Trainer Kathy Moran said the coaches and athletes have been diligent about following the rules and procedures so that they can have a chance to compete. “We had 447 athletes signed up for fall sports, and we made sure they were equipped with the proper knowledge and wherewithal to do things the right way from the first day,” Moran said.
The fall sports—football, girls tennis, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer and field hockey—are now prepping to get back into competition after a two week “dead period” as school began. The seasons have been shortened and travel squad sizes have been implemented to lessen the potential impact of the pandemic but regardless, the athletes and coaches are excited to get back out there.
Head Field Hockey Coach Kelsey (Mitchell) Burke is looking forward to what the season will bring. “It’s (Covid) has provided us with an extra motivation and we are eager to get back on the field for games and are attacking practices with more focus and a new intensity,” said Burke.
Junior field hockey player Olivia Vanesko echoed those sentiments. “Everyone knows things are limited and every practice could be our last, so we definitely have a sense of excitement and appreciation, that we may not have had before,” Vanesko said.
Head Girls Cross Country Coach, Trish Henry, who is entering her 18th season, has never had a preseason quite like the one this year, but again, she is looking forward to the competition starting.
“It’s a strange feeling, getting adjusted to a new meet schedule, no invitationals, limited rosters, and so on. But we are all feeling very fortunate for the opportunity to be together every day, running and doing what we love,” said Henry.
Although the manner in which the student athletes are practicing and how the seasons will play out may be different than years past, one thing remains the same. The rich tradition of excellence that permeates all that Ocean City athletics stands for.