Sports editor Jared McMurry prompted area coaches with the task of nominating athletes who went above and beyond during the pandemic. The following are responses from North Montgomery fall athletes.
Jillian Sommer, Girls Soccer
The North Montgomery girls’ soccer team returned its entire starting lineup for the 2020 season, and Jillian Sommer wasn’t one of them. But that didn’t stop the incoming senior from putting in the work each and every day throughout the quarantined spring and summer.
“I started running everyday in April,” she said. “I set a goal to run at least a 1.5 miles everyday and do a variety of running exercises. I would usually also walk a mile home because I love taking morning walks. So everyday at 8 I would go out running. Then after I came back from running I would put my cleats on and practice with the soccer ball in my backyard for at least 20 minutes.”
Sommer would join in with her siblings and Dad by practicing in the backyard and made it a point to complete the ball skill challenge that North Montgomery girls’ soccer coach Julie Hodges challenged the team with. She also made it a goal to outwork her teammates and crack the starting lineup come August.
With her hard work, she defied the odds.
“I felt like my hard work really did pay off,” she said. “Some days I wouldn’t want to go practice or run but I had to keep reminding myself it would all be worth it. I had made the goals in the beginning that I wanted to pass all my fitness tests and make the starting line up, and I got to check off all of the those goals and many more. I felt like I was in the best shape of my life and I was really proud of myself. All the people around me were so supportive and even though the team couldn’t be physically together, we were still cheering each other on.”
Benjamin Pietsch, Football
If you checked Twitter or nearby roads and trails this spring, you saw evidence of North Montgomery lineman Benjamin Pietsch putting in work during the quarantine. He knew it was necessary, and had faith it would pay off.
“Overall, I do not think it was very hard to stay motivated while I was at home,” he said. “Our coaches provided much needed structure that made it very easy to stay in shape and to ultimately return to sports this August. I also felt like it was critical to attend these virtual workouts in order to compete with the schools in our county and conference this fall. I knew this was critical because I have seen the results of hard work and dedication in my older brothers. I wanted to see the same results in myself, which motivated myself to stay committed.”
Pietsch’s edge in the early part of the season paid off. The junior helped the Chargers to a 5-1 start, and earned all-conference honors. He hopes this will be a springboard into his senior season.
“After this highly unusual football season, I feel like I prepared myself very well during this strange offseason,” he said. “I feel like I have tremendously improved each year that I’ve been in high school, and I am looking forward to see what I can accomplish my senior year. I felt very in shape and ready when we returned in August, which I feel like have me an early edge on the competition. I also felt like it was important to encourage the underclassmen on the team to stay motivated and committed to making themselves better. Overall, I am very proud of my teammates for all that we accomplished this season as a team.”
Elijah McCartney, Cross Country
It didn’t long for North Montgomery’s Elijah McCartney to see his hard work pay off this fall. Many long and lonely miles he endured during the spring and summer that he eventually reaped the benefits from.
“It was hard to stay motivated because I didn’t have a team around me to give me the drive to practice,” he said. “When running on my own I made sure I did lots of just long distance runs to make sure I didn’t lose the endurance I had.”
In the end it paid off with a first-team all-conference nod, sixth-place finish at the sectional, and eventual semi-state qualification.
“I believe it paid off that I continued to train even not being with the team because it really kept me in shape for the actual season practices,” he said. “Running alone helped me focus more on what I needed to fix while running to help me advance in my season.”
Cooper Bowman, Boys Soccer
North Montgomery’s Cooper Bowman wishes he would have had the chance to connect with the young boys’ soccer team sooner than he did.
“Missing almost the entire summer and only being limited on when we could meet I felt that I wasn’t able to develop as good of a connection with my team as I would have liked to,” he said. “It was an awesome group of guys who gave the most heart I’ve ever seen, and it’s really unfortunate that we couldn’t come together earlier and develop that connection.”
Still the senior put in the work over the summer, running and lifting weights to make the most of his final soccer season.