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Student newspaper of Strath Haven High School

Panther Press

Student newspaper of Strath Haven High School

Panther Press

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A successful and safe winter sports season

Teams find balance between athletes’ safety, ability to compete
Senior+Jed+Liu+competes+in+relay+at+the+indoor+track+meet+on+February+12.
Sylvan Prey-Harbaugh
Senior Jed Liu competes in relay at the indoor track meet on February 12.

Safety always comes first,” Athletic Director Pat Clancy remarks. 

This sentiment reflects Haven’s position on the past winter sports season. From indoor track to basketball to swimming, all teams took precautions. Of course, some sports had an easier time dealing with the spread of COVID; staying spread out and ironically outdoors during indoor track practices is much easier than swimming in a mask, yet both sports did their best to keep everyone safe. 

“We practice on the track outside,” indoor track long-distance runner Celest McConnell said. The cold is one of the conditions that indoor track athletes had to endure in order to minimize risk of outbreaks.

I think it’s good to have fans back, if we can follow the protocols.

— Mr. Pat Clancy

And the indoor meets were no less safe, as athletes “wear their masks … then take them off right before [they] get onto the actual track” according to senior sprinter Hannah Driscoll. 

But for swimmers, meets were a source of anxiety, not just because of the competition but because of the pressure to ensure that everyone involved is at the least possible risk to catch COVID. The protocols that were in place have kept outbreaks to a minimum. 

“We’re making sure to wear masks every single meet,” state champ Sydney Bergstrom said. 

Wrestling is another sport that had trouble keeping separated and masked. The intense and vigorous sport requires one to grapple with an opponent just inches away. Yet, before and after the matches, the team made sure to mask up and spread out as they cheered on their teammates. 

“We wear masks on our travel buses, and we clean our room and mats with a disinfectant before practices and meets,” four-time state qualifier and two-time state medalist Chase Barlow added. 

Basketball is a sport that stood somewhere in the middle—not able to spread out as much as track but certainly able to socially distance and wear masks more than swimming. 

The basketball team emphasizes that the return of fans has really been special this year. 

“[The crowd] brings a different environment into the game and can actually impact the game as well,” senior Ryan Doherty remarked. 

Coach Kevin Haney agrees with this sentiment. 

“You could just tell the energy in the locker room prior to a game is different because they know they’re playing in front of their family and friends,” he said. 

But, as more people came back into the gym to support the Haven teams, the transmissibility of the Omicron variant loomed. This new strain’s rapid spread could have compromised the safety of the athletes and caused a return to more strict COVID protocols. And with fans back in the stands, it rested on their shoulders to make sure themselves, the people around them, and the athletes stayed safe. 

As Athletic Director Clancy summarized, “I think it’s good to have fans back, if we can follow the protocols.” 

During the previous sports season, safety was number one but a close second was making the season special and a step towards normalcy. 

“The goal [for the season] is to make senior year—for seniors—the most memorable experience that they could have,” Coach Haney added. 

For all senior athletes, the past season was their last in high school, so they wanted to make it special. That came with necessary health and safety precautions, but also with fans, great performances, and, in time, getting as close to normal as possible. 

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