Published May 27, 2021
By RILEY PALSHAW
From Carmel baseball’s impressive game schedule to track and field qualifying for state after a season filled with lifetime bests, Season 2 of the Carmel High athletic program is wrapping up with many successes despite the unconventional structure of a combined winter and spring sports season.
Illustrating the hard work being put into the program, the varsity baseball team will have played between 28 and 30 games by the end of their season, with the junior varsity and frosh teams playing close to 20, impressive feats for such an abbreviated season.
“The players are very excited to be playing and are not taking anything at all for granted,” says head varsity baseball coach Mike Kelly, who also put together the team’s schedule. “Each player is supporting others, and the feeling of being on a team is very real to them.”
Further contributing to CHS’ successes, the track and field team has had some outstanding accomplishments from their athletes this season, including seniors Sarah Graessley and Lauren Pritchard. These two set lifetime bests at the West Coast Relays at Buchanan High School, with Pritchard clearing a height of 5 feet, 6 inches in the high jump to finish first in the meet and earning the number two spot on Carmel High’s all-time list, while Graessley won the meet in the pole vault, setting a new school record height of 12 feet, 4 inches.
Twenty track and field athletes will be competing in the CCS Qualifier Meet today, after which the top six of each event will advance to the CCS Trials on June 12.
Harrison Hong and Kai Garren will be going to a CCS meet Saturday after their successful boys’ swim season, while girls’ swim ended the year winning four out of the five meets they competed in. And although the girls’ soccer team finished with a 3-5 record, the boys’ soccer team won the CCS Division 4 semifinals yesterday, making them the first soccer team in Carmel history to compete in a CCS championship, which will be on Saturday.
On a different field, the varsity softball team will have a play-in game Wednesday to determine if they will move on to CCS. Unfortunately, the wrestling team was unable to compete against local teams and their CCS and State Championships were canceled. Back on the court, boys’ volleyball went into a Pacific Coast Athletic League tournament with their 5-0 record, while the girls’ tennis team played in a postseason PCAL tournament, winning their first round but losing their second, concluding their year on an overall high note.
“What started out as a practice cohort,” girls’ tennis coach Lauren Haase says, “finished as a full-fledged team with matches, a postseason, an on-court recognition ceremony, and a lot of fun.”
Similarly, boys’ lacrosse ended their season demonstrating passion and commitment for the game, which was needed after the surprisingly low turnout of athletes due to health reasons and the combining of winter and spring sports. The team ended up having to cancel around half of their 12-game season as they recruited new players to join the squad.
“Multiple of our players had never played before,” senior lacrosse captain Grant Gallaway says, “so getting them up to speed was different, but it’s always good to have new players come out for lacrosse.”
The combining of winter and spring seasons, something Season 1 sports did not face, created an obstacle for many coaches and athletes, not just the lacrosse team. Since students were only allowed to compete for one sport, many of the usual rosters that coaches expected were slightly modified, like on the varsity boys’ tennis team, which was composed entirely of freshmen since all of the other players that would typically participate were in a different sport.
Varsity boys’ basketball coach Kurt Grahl was disappointed that his athletes had to choose one sport over another, but besides that one of his greatest struggles this year was what to do with such an abbreviated period of time.
“It was definitely challenging to know what to teach, in what order, and how in-depth, as we had so few practices,” Grahl explains. “Sports practice is about building muscle memory through repetition to help skills and decision making become automatic in competition … and it’s hard to build muscle memory and correct improper technique in that short of a time.”
This was a common phenomenon among the athletic programs this year, as every sport had to adjust to the shortened period of time, including the Carmel High track and field team, which has one of the most dominant women’s distance teams in the PCAL.
“It is extremely hard to train successfully and get in the technical work necessary to compete at a high level with the limited practices and COVID safety protocols,” says track and field coach Nick Cunningham, a three-time winter Olympian. “Our team accepted the challenge, and I could not be more proud of them for all they have worked for and accomplished.”
In spite of a shortened season, constantly changing COVID-19 restrictions, and the combining of winter and spring sports into a single season, Season 2 sports have been able to emerge from these circumstances with numerous successes and a whole new experience under their belts.