(From left to right) Sophomore Callister Misquitta, freshman Harper Livesey, junior Hailey Fesai, coach Jason Kreps and freshman Ishaan Sekhon pose for a photo at the Feb. 26 meet. (Photo courtesy of Jason Kreps)

High school athletics make a return to country day

Sports at Country Day and other schools across California are slowly making their return.

On March 13, 2020, Country Day shutdown along with its spring sports of baseball, golf, tennis, track & field and swimming. 

Cross country, golf, and ski and snowboard are the first Country Day sports to resume since the pandemic started last year. These sports were among others in the California Interscholastic Federation’s purple or widespread tier with minimal guidelines. 

“We’re all super excited to be able to play again,” said Matt Vargo, Country Day’s golf coach and athletic director.

“Athletics is a great way for some kids to express themselves, so I’m very happy that we are bringing that back.”

Vargo said that certain sports could have started much earlier.

“Around 40 other states started playing sports before us,” Vargo said. “People have been playing golf for a very long time. Given how minimal guidelines are for some sports, we definitely could have started sooner.”

The golf team practices at Hagen Oaks golf complex with minimal guidelines, Vargo said.

“For golf, all players must be wearing masks at all times while practicing and competing,” Vargo said. “There are also restrictions on the number of spectators.”

Freshman Delsyn Beaton also is excited to be playing again.

“High school sports was something that I was looking forward to going into my freshman year,” Beaton said. “Finally being able to practice is very exciting.”

Cross country coach Joe Hartman said the goal of bringing back sports is very important.

“I believe everyone is aware that the stress level facing students either has increased or has the potential to increase because of such deviance from normal,” Hartman said. “The only real goal this season is to gain experience and hopefully retain athletes for next season.”

The cross country team’s COVID-19 guidelines are similar to those of golf.

“During practices, the runners wear their masks at all times when they are not actively running,” Hartman said. “During discussion, drills and stretching, the athletes are wearing their masks. We are on a very fine line of sensibly working the runners into shape.”

Since the teams are so small, all runners run varsity — 3.05 miles — but some races will be 2 miles.

Sophomore Grace Eberhart said it’s great to be back.

“Being back in cross country gives me a sense of normalcy and gives me an excuse to workout,” Eberhart said.

Eberhart agrees that practices are restrictive.

“We only practice when our respective cohorts are at school,” Eberhart said. “Last year we had five practices a week where now we just have two.”

Eberhart hopes to improve her skills this year.

“I would like to build my stamina and improve my personal record,” she said. “But since the year is so short, my main goal is to stay healthy and build my stamina.”

Ski and snowboard coach Jason Kreps thinks that it’s great to have outdoor sports back.

“It’s great in the right setting,” Kreps said. “The sports that are outside and are able to spread out are manageable.”

Kreps said that the COVID-19 guidelines are similar to the ones at Country Day.

The athletes must fill out questionnaires before each race. The races go by school, so there is no alteration or mixing.

The team has had four races so far.

“The first two races during mid-winter break were pretty snowy and windy, so it was not ideal for racing but we got through it,” he said. “The last two races were at Alpine and we had fantastic weather and great racing. I am just happy to see some sports back and the athletes together and smiles on faces!”

Junior Hailey Fesai is also excited but also nervous.

“Sports are super important to all athletes,” Fesai said. “But with these new guidelines, it can be stressful to compete, more so than it already is.”

The ski and snowboard team must wear face masks under their helmets and headgear. 

“Wearing a mask under our helmets can get really uncomfortable and difficult to deal with,” Fesai said. “And we aren’t allowed to take them off or even pull them down at all.”

— By Miles Morrow

Originally published in the March 9 edition of the Octagon.

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