Spring Athletics Amidst COVID

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by Lauren Stark

While COVID-19 brought tremendous changes to high school student athletes across the world, the Frederick Gunn School is doing its very best to keep the spirit of athletics alive within the community. 

This spring season the school has 9 athletic team offerings: Boys and Girls Varsity Crew, Boys Varsity Baseball, Boys and Girls Varsity Lacrosse, Boys and Girls Varsity Tennis, Coed Varsity Golf, and Coed Varsity Ultimate Frisbee. Since some students are finishing their school year remotely, some team rosters and numbers are smaller, and sadly this year there is no softball team as there were not enough players to field one. Aside from softball, the spring athletic team offerings are the same as prior years. 

Despite changes in numbers as well as the new mask and social distancing guidelines, “in many ways the spring athletic season looks the same compared to the past” says athletic director Mike Marich, “students are engaged in our offerings, having fun outside with friends, and learning new skills.” 

Just nearly 2 weeks into the athletic season, when asked how their spring sport is going students from all different teams have all had good things to say. “It’s been awesome to get back on the field and put work in with the team,” says Gavin Brown ‘22 when asked about Boys Varsity Baseball, “Even though COVID has made the season feel a little different with masks and social distancing I’ve still had a lot of fun getting to be out there every day.”

With last year’s spring-athletic season being canceled due to the pandemic, for many teams being able to play and compete in games is exciting. Co-Captain Eddie Rayhill ‘22can say the same for the Boys Varsity Lacrosse team, stating that “we had lost last year’s season to the pandemic, and I think everyone is excited just to be able to compete in a game against another school again.” The Girls Varsity Lacrosse team feels just the same, says Katherine Cortese ’21, sharing the same sentiment about sadly losing last year’s season to COVID, and agreed that “I think we are very lucky to be starting up in a time where we see some light at the end of the tunnel. With the vaccine and COVID protocols to keep us safe, we now have the opportunity to play games… I personally am super grateful for this and am so happy to be playing!” 

Boys Varsity Lacrosse Captains at Practice.

 (Left to Right) Bobby Wells, Eddie Rayhill, Jon Nichele.

Image via gunnboyslax on instagram.

As a school we have to be grateful to our Athletic Director Mr. Marich again for making these games all possible. As he explained himself, “We have been very fortunate to partner with local peer schools to form a peer group with Canterbury School, Cheshire Academy, Millbrook School, Salisbury School, and Suffield Academy.  The Athletic Directors from those schools have been meeting weekly since April 2020 to brainstorm ideas on how we can resume athletic competition safely. Each of these schools follows similar health standards and has committed to adhering to common safety measures. I am thankful to my colleagues at these schools for their partnership in this!”

This year, Girls and Boys Tennis, Girls and Boys Lacrosse, Boys Baseball, and Coed Golf will all be able to participate in games with our peer schools as mentioned above. As in previous years, games were played on Wednesdays and Fridays, this spring we will play contests on Fridays and Saturdays. Even for our teams that won’t be competing against other schools, there are still scrimmages and opportunities to play being sorted out. Ava Lee ‘21, coxswain of the Boys Crew Team, stated that “our coaches, Mr. Turner and Mr. Visentin, are working on putting a few informal races together for the girls and boys teams, which I am really excited about. I think that even with COVID, the team is really motivated to get better.” As well as these informal races between crew, coed Ultimate Frisbee will also have opportunity for game-like events as they plan to have full field scrimmages every Saturday.

Boys Varsity Baseball’s first game back at home against Pomfret. 

Image via gunnhighlanders on instagram.

While some roster sizes and numbers have shifted, many teams have made the most out of these changes. “We have a super big group of girls (35!) which is very exciting and it’s fun to see the girls who’ve never played before try out a new sport” says Katherine about Girls Lacrosse. Boys Tennis also has a larger roster as well, says Arian Agadi ‘21 about Boys Tennis, “we have a large team with a lot of talented players, so I am really looking forward to our games. COVID has allowed us to merge the JV and Varsity teams into one larger team.” The shift in the number of players has affected varying teams differently. “We have our biggest team yet,” says Colten Cicarelli ‘21 about coed Golf, “at around 17 kids, we have enough to split and make our first ever JV team.”

Overall, one of the most important things about the Frederick Gunn School is community, and that transfers the same to athletics in terms of building good team dynamics and connections. Astrid von Seufurt ‘21 of the Girls Crew Team said that “the days where we just get to row to get the form down are my favorites, and I would end up telling stories to the girls in my boat whenever we have those practices.” Talking about team bonding, Eddie Rayhill explained that “the only thing we are all really missing out on is the locker room down at the fieldhouse. Some of the best times of being a part of the team comes from being in the locker room before or after a game/practice and hanging out with our teammates.” Even without these, the boys lacrosse team continues to be ‘close knit,’ and even with 35 people, the girls Lacrosse team feels the same.

Boys Varsity Crew Practice

Image via Ava Lee ‘21

As the spring athletic-season heads into games, what’s most important is that even within the hardships COVID has brought upon to our school we stay optimistic.

As Mr. Marich told the Boys Lacrosse Team in their opening meeting, “if we learned anything over the past year it is that we can’t take anything for granted and we need to cherish every moment we have together playing the games that we love.”

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