Published Feb. 10, 2021
By RILEY PALSHAW
With the lifting of the Monterey County stay-at-home order, Carmel High School’s cross-country team has been off and running since Feb. 3 as the first team to start practices in the athletic program’s plan for rolling out “fall” sports.
Since cross-country is the only typical fall sport that coincides with the county’s status in the widespread purple tier, the team is the first to begin normal practice, with the only major difference being the enforcement of masks and social distancing at all times, which the team has achieved by staying six feet apart during warm ups and using empty lanes to separate athletes on the track.
“It looks and feels a little different with the masks and distancing this season,” says Carmel head coach Whit Rambach, “but we’ve taken every precaution to create a safe environment. We’re just glad to be playing outside again.”
This excitement translates directly to cross-country athletes, and although running can be done individually, training and competing with others is what makes the team work.
“I’m just really happy to be back,” says sophomore Ryleigh Teague, who holds the record for the freshman girls’ three-mile time at CHS. “It feels like everything is finally returning to some kind of normalcy in times like these.”
Athletes and coaches are glad to be returning to a version of the sport, even if it’s slightly modified for the remainder of the “fall season,” which is now being referred to as Season 1.
“Our next step with them is to get them practicing on somewhat of a course a few days a week,” CHS athletic director Golden Anderson explains. “That’s what we’re working on right now, but it is definitely a lot of fun to see them out there.”
While cross-country currently has no meets scheduled yet, competitions between one or more teams from other schools may be organized, so long as they are done in a safe way. One possibility would be to compete would be with staggered start times, compared to the one traditional shotgun.
“With the uncertainty of athletic programs during the pandemic, having the opportunity to get on the field with my teammates again is thrilling,” says freshman Marcus Michie. “Looking forward, my teammates and I are focusing on taking this opportunity to train and practice safely for the upcoming season.”
Cross-country may be the first sport of Season 1 to return to CHS, but other fall sports are following close behind, such as field hockey, water polo, football and girls’ volleyball, all cleared to begin limited practices come Feb. 22. Because Monterey County is in a more restrictive tier than these sports allow, they will only be allowed to run limited practices, meaning restricted use of equipment and a focus on skill development and team building, while remaining socially distanced. Field hockey would be able to move to normal practices once the county moves to the red tier, but the other sports would have to wait until the less restrictive orange tier.
“Coaches are trying to plan practices that would allow skill development, with systems in place to keep people apart,” the athletic director explains.
The cutoff date of the first season is March 27, but that’s not stopping teams from trying to squeeze in as much time practicing as possible until then. Any time teams can get on a field together is a win in Anderson’s book: “We want to try to create an avenue for coaches and students to interact and develop skills and bond as a team.”