Isolated Athletics

During the pandemic, school spirit has changed drastically, as safety precautions prevent spectators from attending events.

by Carmon Baker, Web Editor

As junior Sydney Swan prepared to start running at a cross country meet Aug. 29, the course was quiet. Instead of seeing her family and friends lining her running path, all she saw was empty space, dotted with a few teammates. 

“Especially when you’re running, it’s just nice to have people cheering you on,” Swan said. “It’s encouraging because I mean, you’re running. But before the race, there were a lot more nerves I think going on, just because you weren’t able to interact and relax. Before meets last year and the year before, we would all talk and we would just get out our nerves by interacting with each other.”

One of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic has been that athletics have changed drastically. Teams have begun taking more precautions, and spectators are no longer allowed into sporting events. According to Swan, spectators play an important role for runners, so meets, as well as their strategy, have changed.  

“We really rely on spectators to get us going,” Swan said. “They tell us when somebody’s behind us, if somebody’s catching up, if we’re good, what place we are, what our time is. And now you have to think about your running a lot more. Think about your pacing. It’s a lot more individual. Also, usually the spectators [are] lining the courses so you know where you’re running. [Aug. 29] we had no idea where we were going.”

Because of these changes, Spirit Club co-presidents Elise Johnson and Daisy Oxler believe that school spirit will not be as prevalent at STA this year.

“It’s going to be a lot harder because spirit is like the visual representation,” Oxler said. “It’s kind of hard to  get in the mood if you’re not there. I feel like it creates an energy being around other people.” 

Looking forward, Spirit Club is beginning to create modifications so that they can continue to generate school spirit during the pandemic.

“I feel like it’s kind of hard because a lot of things for Spirit Club are pretty interactive with pep rallies and going to games,” Johnson said. “So we’ve had meetings, and we’ve talked about  still making videos that we do at pep rallies but just sending them out in emails instead.”

According to Johnson, it is Spirit Club’s goal to make school spirit more interactive and accessible this year, regardless of whether that happens in person or online.. 

“We’d have a goal to try and make whatever we do end up doing a pretty interactive thing,” Johnson said. “If we do go fully online, I know [last year Spirit Club] did stuff like the bingo, you post on your story. I feel like we could figure out stuff like that to try and keep it as normal as we can.”

Johnson and Oxler hope to build off of the social media presence that Spirit Club started last year to generate school spirit during the pandemic.  

“Everyone uses Instagram a lot,” Johnson said. “Well, not everyone, but I feel like we can reach a lot of people at the school through it. I think it’s a good way to keep people updated and also just like a reminder. I really like it.”

Swan has noticed an overall change in team morale amidst the change, saying, “Everything’s so unknown.”

“I feel like a lot of the older girls are just starting to give up a little,” Swan said. “They’re starting to lose a little bit of hope for the season. They lost their track season and for a lot of the girls that’s their favorite season. So they’re concerned for college, they’re concerned for their spot in the team with all these strong freshmen. We’re all kind of tired.”

Oxler agrees with Swan, saying that she has seen the mood on campus change, especially among the upperclassmen. 

“I’d say right now [the mood is] a little bit down,” Oxler said. “Freshmen don’t really know the normal routine, but I feel like for seniors it’s a little down because it’s just not normal, or we’ve missed out on a lot of stuff.  I think the first day everyone was pretty excited and hopefully we send out something soon to keep it up. Or to at least build on it.”

For freshmen, many of their traditions have changed. For example, Spirit Club struggled when teaching them cheers during orientation. 

“Trying to teach the freshmen the cheers was hard,” Oxler said. “Wearing a mask, that was difficult.”

In terms of athletics, many of the cross country seniors were quarantined during their first meet, which, according to Swan, was also difficult for the team. 

“When we found out that they were going to quarantine most of our seniors, that was heartbreaking,” Swan said. “I feel like a lot of people are just waiting for their turn to be quarantined.”

However, Swan also saw the team shift in a positive direction during their first meet, with juniors stepping up and leading the team. 

“I definitely feel like a lot of the juniors are stepping up a lot,” Swan said. “We’re organizing a lot of the traditions. We’re organizing what to bring to meets or bringing stuff to the meets, we’re talking with the freshmen about how to run and strategy. A lot of the things that you see the senior captains doing.”

Swan is optimistic and believes that the team’s experiences this year could actually help the team coming back next season. 

“Depending on how this year goes, I feel like everybody’s gonna work so hard [next year],” Swan said. “Hopefully [COVID-19 is] over by then for the most part. So in theory, I think by then everybody’s just going to work extra hard to make up for lost time. And I’m so glad that we have another year to do this. I feel horrible for the seniors who are having to go through this.”

Despite the pandemic, Johnson is still looking forward to her senior year in Spirit Club and hopes to have a good year. 

“The past three years I’ve been looking up to the seniors and it’s kind of exciting to finally be them,” Johnson said.