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After almost a year, high school sports poised to resume

by Steven Felschundneff | steven@claremont-courier.com

To paraphrase Prince’s tune “Nothing Compares 2 U,” it’s been 10 months and eight days since they took the sports away. But this Saturday the pandemic hiatus is set to end when the Claremont High School cross country team travels to Ayala for a dual meet. Maybe.

As of Wednesday evening, the approval for the meet had not been finalized. However, Claremont is scheduled to race against Glendora following a separate meet between Ayala and Bonita earlier in the day. Colony and Alta Loma high schools elected not to field teams this year.

Coach Bill Reeves said that if they cannot get the final approval to race at Ayala then he will host Glendora at CHS. “I am hoping for Ayala Park, I don’t want to do it here. But if we have to, it is what it is. We are not going to take a day off, we have had 11 months of that.”

Asked about the struggles coaching the team during the pandemic, Coach Reeves said that it has been hard on the team, and a lot of work.

“It’s a lot of stress for the kids, as you can see we have about 30 [runners.] In the summer we had about 60, so we are down about half. Our normal team has around 90. It’s just really hard on the kids starting and stopping,” Coach Reeves said.

Los Angeles County, along with 52 of the state’s 58 counties, remains in the most restrictive tier of the state’s reopening plan, so any play will be far from sports as we knew it before the coronavirus. Social distancing and mask requirements will be enforced, and the teams will run back-to-back dual meets, with each school competing in just one race for boys and one for girls. But it’s a start.

The Palomares League cross country meets generally involve all five teams in mass start races for freshman, junior varsity and varsity runners. That won’t be happening. The league championship is scheduled for March 15, but that is still on hold. If, however, the local case rate drops enough that the county is moved from a widespread outbreak to substantial one, then the championships could go on as planned. But, it is complicated because every individual district and county has to approve it.

Asked about his teams’ current mental state, Coach Reeves said they have a good attitude in spite of the constant interruptions.  “They love being out here every day,” he said.

“I am super excited, we had some inner squad stuff, but its definitely different going against a different team,” junior Maddie Coles said about this weekend’s meet. She has been a champion runner for the Pack in both her freshman and sophomore years, so the interruption is a disappointment, but she still has one more chance, if by next fall cross country can resume a regular schedule. “I am really hoping for a normal season next year.”

“I feel like after months of training we finally are being rewarded and it’s exciting to see all of our training pay off,” senior Angie Gushue said. “I am grateful that we have any sort of season.” She has committed to be a runner at Claremont McKenna College coming next fall.

Under current CIF rules, which are dictated by the California Department of Public Health, the only CHS sports that can return to competition are cross country, tennis, golf, swimming and track and field. Furthermore, travel is restricted to just counties that share at least one border.

On Tuesday the cross country team was holding its practice at the CHS track, which was an unusually busy place with many athletes, some much older than high school students, conducting workouts. Coaches told the COURIER the CHS field is one of the only sports complexes in the area that is open, which has attracted a number of teams, including University of La Verne.

Tennis coach Kathy Settles has been on the courts for four hours every day with back-to-back workouts for the boys and girls teams. In a normal year, girls tennis is a fall sport and boys compete in the spring, but now that the seasons have been truncated they will not only be practicing together, the matches will be comingled as well.

“It feels like one big family,” she said about having the teams together. Although a socially distanced family.

Organizing the workouts has been pretty easy so far because her players are all very skilled and even before the coronavirus she would hold coed practice for the better players.

“I feel really fortunate to give these kids a place to come out, play their sport and interact with their peers. They really need to get out and resume some normal activities,” Coach Settles said.

When competition resumes next month, she will have to organize matches with eight courts going simultaneously, which could be a challenge. But again, the Pack’s high level of experience will make that task easier.

Currently, San Bernardino teams can’t travel to Los Angeles County for competition so the only league matches that the team can count on are against Bonita and Glendora. As of this week, the first match is scheduled for March 2 against Los Osos at CHS, followed two days later with a home match against Palm Desert. However, those matches may be scrapped due to the travel restrictions. In that case the Pack’s first competition will be at home on March 16 against Arcadia.

Asked about resuming competition, Coach Settles said, “It’s really exciting and it happened so fast. I did not think it was going to happen.”

 

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