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COVID-19 Cannot Stop Hawk Athletes

While the Forest Hills community stews in anticipation of the governor’s confirmation of the end of the school year, the notion that students will not be returning to FHE has been accepted by many Eastern families. While this affects students statewide, a specific sect of students’ routines have been altered drastically. Hawk athletes who participate in spring sports have been swindled out of a whole season—a season for which many have been preparing for nearly a year. While the fate of spring sports is uncertain at best, Hawk athletes have allocated little of their time to mourning. Contrarily, they have been utilizing their newfound free time to refine their skills and maintain their edge. 

Similarly to many students, Hawk athletes were at first excited about the idea of ceasing the school year. As John Morgan (‘21) puts it, “When I first heard that school was being closed for a bit I was kind of happy because it meant that we could get some time off, but now I wish we could go back.” And while the time off may serve as a breather for some, it was a commonly expressed sentiment among many athletes that now, all they want is to return to normalcy. “…I miss seeing everyone and attending school events,” admitted John. Moreover, social distancing is taking a toll on the athletes—they miss their teams. “I hate being away from my soccer team and my running buddies,” said Breck McCloskey (‘21). Sheridan Ruppel (’21) agrees, stating that she “miss[es] [her] team so much,” but tries to stay occupied with outside activities and practicing soccer as much as possible. “We both just want to go back to school,” said Sheridan of her and her sister Addie’s (‘23) sentiments. “I really miss my friends and especially the seniors… it’s sad because their time is cut short [and] I can’t imagine how sad they must feel.”

Image credit to Haley Toigo

However, even with the overarching sorrow, Hawks have been making the best of the situation. Though unable to play tennis or volleyball due to social distancing, Haley Toigo (‘21) has not let that stop her from improving her skills. “I’ve been working out 2-3 times a week and have been doing footwork [and ball control] drills,” she says of her updated workout regimen. Similarly, John has been adamant on keeping a strict practice schedule. “I practice lacrosse and workout everyday,” he declared. “Our coaches have really been pushing us to have the stick in our hands everyday. This definitely serves as a way to spend time while we’re cooped up in our homes…” The McCloskey clan has also maintained their fitness. “I’ve been consistently working out every other day and I’ve been running pretty much everyday,” says Breck. “I also practice soccer everyday… My club coach has sent us lots of work… I enjoy working out because it makes me feel productive and it takes off a lot of stress.” As for her brothers, Breck says they share the same sentiment. “[Bodie (‘21)] has been running a lot… he definitely misses… being able to run and socialize with his buddies… Caden (‘20) has been working out in the basement as well… on the rowing machine.” While returning to spring sports officially may not be viable, Eastern athletes continue to model what might be the most important characteristic when it comes to sports—hard work and a drive to improve.

When they aren’t burning calories, Hawk athletes seem to bide their time ingesting them.  “Besides… physical activity, I have been baking everyday and cooking. It has become an addiction…” admitted Breck. “I… need to burn off a lot of calories…” Similarly, Haley claims much of her time has fallen victim to baking, which she constantly is trying to balance with staying in shape. “Working out is a great way to pass the time, and it’s also good because I just eat all day…” she says. The Ruppels have also hopped on the baking train. “Both Addie and I… cook and bake a lot. Addie is a lot better at that though so we mainly just eat hers and throw mine away,” declared Sheridan. 

Besides balancing good eats and exercise, the athletes have also dedicated time to staying on top of their education, as well as their other areas of interest. “I have stayed pretty busy with schoolwork, SAT prep, hanging out with my family, working on YouTube videos, and enjoying time outside,” says Ben Clason (’21) of his updated routine. He claims that with his new schedule, staying active is key in keeping himself motivated in these chaotic times. “I have actually been able to increase my training with the extra time I have available,” Ben says, acknowledging a silver lining. “I think the fact that I have continued running has probably decreased my stress because it provides structure and something to expect every day.” 

Image credit to Sheridan Ruppel

While the spring season has not gone as many had planned, the future of Hawk Sports continues to be bright. John believes that the lack of a season this year will propel athletes, especially those on the boys lacrosse team, to work especially hard in their time off in order to make the most out of next year’s season. “Our team is going to work even harder to prepare for next year,” he determined. “[Juniors] only have one more shot at a state championship, and I can tell you first hand that there is nothing our team wants more. We’re going to find a new level of commitment and drive, and seriously go to work for our senior year.”

Through all this chaos, Athletic Director Ben Sherman encourages all Eastern students to work fitness into their daily regimen as a way to fight the quarantine blues. “I believe that it is important for people to stay physically active during this quarantine period because physical activity has health benefits that include helping strengthen the immune system, helping to burn energy and increase blood flow while being stuck at home,” he asserts. “…Exercise also has anti-anxiety benefits as it relieves tension and stress that I’m sure many of us have at this time.” Sherm remains optimistic and holds faith that with a combined effort of our country and our community, we will be able to make it through these hard times together. “Athletics are such an intimate activity that results in many people in close quarters creating a connection… with their team and also competing in close proximity to opponents during competition. Due to this close proximity I don’t think that it is wise to start athletics back up until this pandemic is completely under control,” he says. In the meantime, he believes that it’s important to continue looking to others for inspiration. “Connecting with friends, teachers, neighbors and family through the many meeting platforms such as Google Hangouts, Zoom, FaceTime or the many other options helps keep some normalcy for all of us,” he claims. When asked what advice he’d like to share with the Eastern community, Sherm stresses the importance of kindness and compassion in the midst of what can feel like an all-consuming, dark time. “Share positive thoughts, positive energy and empathy for everyone that you can communicate with remotely. Let them know that you’re thinking about them, wish them well, share a laugh and a smile. Find a way to help someone out during this tough time. I’ve always believed that you can find happiness in helping others.” 

Featured image credit to John Morgan

One Comment

  1. Madine Whitmer Madine Whitmer

    At first, I was pretty disappointed about school being canceled. But this was going to leave a lot of time to do some intense training for cycling and mountain biking. It made the situation a little less…lonely I guess. Whenever I’m on the bike, I always feel free and joyous. I’m super disappointed I cannot see friends and family right now, but it makes me happy to see some Eastern kids out and about, continuing to train for their sports.

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