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Cue Tumbleweeds--Stadium Stays Empty This Fall

Updated: Nov 24, 2020

An empty Cy Dillon Stadium and Fred M. Brown Field yearn for athletic contests. (Photo courtesy of Wedding Photography and Films, LLC. )
Team practices this fall, such as basketball, have used social distancing to curb the spread of Covid. (Courtesy Photo)

By Emma Duncan--Eagle Staff Writer

This time last year, bleachers were full, the marching band played, and cheerleaders helped the Eagles shoot for another win. This year, however, the world of high school sports has been turned upside down.

Due to COVID-19, the Virginia High School League has postponed seasons, added regulations, and switched around the playing schedule.

“This year, winter sports will play first, followed by fall, and then spring,” explained Athletic Director Crystal Worley. “The plan is to have a condensed schedule where every team plays 60% of their regular games. It’s called a championship plus one season, meaning if you don’t qualify for the regional competition, you’ll be allowed to schedule one additional game.”

If these games are even played, not much is known about how they’ll operate.

“Right now we’re waiting for VHSL to release how many fans will be allowed at games. If we were to play now, only 25 people would be allowed. When you take out your players, coaches, and other staff, that doesn’t leave much room,” Worley said.

While Worley awaits a plan from VHSL, sports teams are trying to prepare for whatever season lies ahead.

“None of our teams can technically hold a practice until they have an approved health plan, but open gyms have been happening,” said Worley.

She went on to explain what these health plans will entail.

“We’ll do daily health screens, including temperature checks and ‘Covid questions’,” explained Worley. “The coaches and players have disinfectants to clean balls, the weight room, and any other equipment after use.”

Worley said the winter sports season begins Dec. 7 and lasts until Feb. 20. Boys Basketball Coach Thomas Hering has been preparing his team since this past summer.

“I sent them messages around once a week of at-home skill training and workout videos,” said Hering.

Back in school, Hering started open gyms on Sept. 28.

“In open gyms we can incorporate passing drills but can’t play five-on-five games,” Hering said. “I don’t know when the rules will change, so we’re trying to do what we can to stay in shape and know what to do when the season starts.”

After winter sports conclude, the fall sports season will happen from Feb. 4 until April 24.

One team is not only dealing with a delayed season, but also a lost opportunity to play.

“We usually get to play in a pre-season jamboree, but I doubt with the current circumstances we’ll be able to,” said Volleyball Coach Kaitlyn Dula.

Another team--Cheer--knows they can play, but not like they did last year.

“As of right now, our competition season will begin in February and run until the end of April,” explained Cheer Coach Marsha Lopez. “Our athletes are allowed to tumble without spots, but they aren’t allowed to stunt.”

Only one sports team has faced no real changes due to Covid: Golf.

“We were mostly pandemic-ready before the pandemic,” said Coach Michael Rogers. “It’s played outdoors; you can easily maintain more than 6 ft of social distancing, and no equipment is shared.”

Lastly, the spring season starts April 12 and ends June 26. Will the Eagles end the year on a high note? Or a note at all? Or will the 2021 season be a repeat of last year--canceled just as it begins?

We only got to play two scrimmages,” said Girls Soccer Coach Maryann Castaneda-Hodges. “The team was looking really strong, and it's frustrating we didn't get to see their full potential.”

In case this season gets cancelled, Castaneda-Hodges has an idea to honor this year’s seniors.

“I’ve seen teams celebrating seniors at a senior night on the very first game or scrimmage,” she explained. “If a season were to end abruptly, they would’ve had the chance to be appreciated. I think it’s a great idea if we get to play.”

Swim coach Hannah White also thinks this experience brings new opportunities.

“I think when we’re thrown challenges, you can use them to find new strengths,” White said. “I’m just going with the flow and trying to make the most of what we have. Just because this season doesn’t look like last season doesn't mean athletes can’t have their best season yet.”

Update: Due to recent Covid spikes and outbreaks in the community, all out-of-season sports have been temporarily put on hold.

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