Area athletes return to normal activities for first time since March

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High school athletes returned to the fields Monday for an IHSAA sanctioned practice for the first time since early March.

On March 13, schools were closed, spring athletics suspended and later canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic stormed the United States.

As America has reopened, Indiana has often been near the front of the line, including with athletics, which saw high school students return to voluntary practices on July 6, before the 2020 fall season started Monday, right on schedule. Tomorrow, North Montgomery and Southmont return to school, while Crawfordsville heads back to the classroom on Monday.

At this point, area athletes and coaches are doing everything they can to assure they have a season.

“They’re high school kids and they want to play,” North Montgomery athletic director Matt Merica said. “I would say that a great percentage of our kids that are participating in the fall, missed out on their seasons in the spring, and they don’t want that. Their priority is to do everything they can to assure they have a season. And they’ve been awesome. You never know how a teenager is going to react to something new, but across the board our kids have been great.”

All three Montgomery County schools have continued to take guidance from Franciscan and Witham medical groups, while remaining in constant communication with the health department as a return to normal practice has neared over the last few weeks.

“We are continuing to follow the plan that Franciscan and Witham’s doctors put together for us,” Crawfordsville athletic director Bryce Barton said. “The health department has been great at looking those plans and agreeing or tweaking those plans based on what they’ve seen.”

While Merica says North Montgomery will come together as teams this week for practice to ensure they’re ready for contests to start on Aug. 15, Southmont will continue to work in small groups and limit contact.

“We are planning to continue to use small group work in some capacity,” Mounties’ athletic director Aaron Charles said. “Each sport may look a little bit different in that aspect. We will see some limited contact in a couple of the sports, while in the small groups work, but plan to continue no contact in football.”

Barton says while the Athenians athletes and coaches are doing what is necessary during their time together, the most important part is what they do after practice.

“Our kids have bought in, and have started working out with masks,” he said. “Our coaches have bought in and are making sure they have been following everything they can to give us a chance to play this fall. We can control what we can control from 4-6 o’clock, we just keep talking to our student athletes about being mindful of who they’re with in the evenings and away from athletics to make sure they social distance and they try and stay in those small cohorts.”

That buy-in has been prevalent across the county.

“We’ve been pleased with how the last month, the summer portion of athletics have gone,” Merica said. “We have had no major incidents and athletes and coaches are doing an excellent job. Socially distancing as much as possible, and wearing masks when needed. That has to be attributed to the coaches and the kids. We have two goals and that’s one for the safety of our coaches and kids and secondly is to have a season.”

Ready or not, sports are here, and contests aren’t too far behind. Luckily, local athletes are ready to roll even with new procedures in place to help combat the virus.

“This has been a big adjustment for athletes, coaches, parents, and school staff,” Charles said. “The main thing we are stressing is that we want to be safe and do all that we can as individuals so that we can continue with athletics. I saw a lot of excitement and good things by our athletes last night. They are eager to continue to put the work in so they can compete at the highest level they possibly can. I think the month of July really helped our athletes physically but mentally as well and believe any momentum we have started to build with our return, will continue.”

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