Although Evanston Township High School students attended class remotely this semester, the Illinois High School Association allowed “lower-risk” sports to continue play this fall, with some adjustments to their schedules.
Those low-risk sports included boys and girls cross country, boys and girls golf, girls swimming and girls tennis. Higher-risk fall sports like football will begin in February, and most traditional spring sports are scheduled to start in early May. Both winter and spring athletes at ETHS will play on modified schedules — and some fall sport athletes say they’ve seen big changes, too.
A member of the golf and baseball teams, ETHS senior Peter Barbato said he had mixed emotions about stepping back on the green this fall. To limit the number of people at every match, the golf team had fewer tournaments and events, competing more often with teams inside its conference.
“I was a little sad that we didn’t get to play during our regular scheduled season,” Barbato said. “But at the same time, I was also fortunate that we got to play it all. For a long time, there was speculation about whether we would even have a season.”
One of the season’s biggest disappointments, Barbato said, was the cancellation of the state tournament, because the tournament used to be one of the landmark events of his year.
Like Barbato’s team, varsity cross country assistant coach Donald Michelin Sr.’s team couldn’t compete in a state meet, either. Michelin said competition is a major aspect of development as a runner, so losing out on the opportunity to compete could set some of his prospective collegiate runners behind.
The team split into varsity, junior varsity and freshman pods, and each were limited to only 20 practices in person — a drastic change from a regular season. At the invitational meets that did take place, runners had to keep social distancing in mind, running far apart from each other.
“The camaraderie of the teams was nonexistent, because everyone had to stay within their bubble,” Michelin said. “It was great to have a season, but the better runners missed out because they weren’t able to have a state meet.”
Michelin, who is also the varsity coach of the track team, said the status of his indoor winter season is up in the air, considering the IHSA’s recent mandate to stop all high school indoor activities.
Without a winter season, many senior athletes will be stripped of the chance to show their talents for one last time. Senior football player and Drake University commit Connor Groff said it was hard to see players from other states playing football and getting recruited for college.
“Your senior tape is probably your most important tape for football, especially because that’s what most kids get recruited off of,” Groff said. “For kids on my team not to be able to show coaches their full potential is really tough.”
Players and coaches also say they miss quick conversations and team dinners — the small things that brought them closer in community with each other.
“It was hard to realize then, before it got taken away from us,” Barbato said. “I’d give a lot to be able to do it again, at least one more time.”
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