Spring Sports Return After Cancelled 2020 Season

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Media by Kevin Arens

Luke Arens, senior, looks to see if he has a shot on goal during a water polo game against Parkway North last school year. MHS won with a final score of 15-8.

When the track and field season was delayed last spring due to the pandemic, Matt Nienhaus, head coach, assumed at the time that they would be out for a couple of weeks.

After a few weeks of practice last spring, the entire 2020 season was cancelled for all spring sports. Many seniors lost their last high school season, and coaches lost valuable time spent working with and developing the skills of their players. 

Now, only a few weeks away from spring sports tryouts on Monday, March 1, coaches and players of all sports are preparing for a different type of season. 

Due to his experience as a cross-country coach this season, Nienhaus suspects that participation in track and field may be down this year by 25 percent from their usual 90 to 110 athletes despite it being a no-cut sport.

“The hope is that everyone realizes that this is a great outdoor sport that can be used to, in an organized way, get you back into shape as we exit the winter doldrums,” Nienhaus said.

“The hope is that everyone realizes that this is a great outdoor sport that can be used to, in an organized way, get you back into shape as we exit the winter doldrums.””

— Matt Nienhaus

A large concern for Nienhaus is getting freshmen and sophomores experience to allow them to succeed because they barely had the chance to work in the program. He considers field events and hurdles to be the greatest challenge, but he does not doubt they will get through it.

Track athletes also have been staying in shape during the offseason by running indoor track and following programs given by Nienhaus. Many of the athletes he works with also play football, which has been offering strength and conditioning sessions multiple times a week.

Many athletes who participate in other sports such as Luke Arens, senior, haven’t been so lucky to have this opportunity for offseason practice.

Arens plays varsity water polo, and though he has been back in the water swimming, he hasn’t been able to practice water polo. 

“It isn’t a sport that you can just practice anywhere and anytime you want,” Arens said. “I feel a little rusty with my water polo skills, but I know I’m in pretty good shape and can get back in the swing of things quick.

Team sports that rely on player interaction suffer from the loss of time spent working together last season, but players such as Arens work to ensure that this season will not be canceled by wearing his mask and following safety protocols.

“I’m a little scared that this season could get cancelled because it is my senior year, and I don’t want to miss both of my last two seasons,” he said. 

Other students such as junior Mary Kate Miesner, who made j.v. soccer before the shutdown, have decided not to return after last season was cancelled and COVID restrictions have come into play.

“This season in cheer has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, but we have worked so hard as a team in order to put together a routine for nationals. I couldn’t quit on my team now, and that made going out for soccer nearly impossible.””

— Mary Kate Miesner

“At first, I was really upset because I wanted to play for [Coach] Conway, but I realized we were in the middle of a pandemic,” Miesner said. 

Due to the gap between seasons, Miesner has not participated with an organized soccer team since the end of her freshman year. COVID restrictions have also caused a delay in her cheer season, altering it and pushing it back to the spring.

“This season in cheer has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs, but we have worked so hard as a team in order to put together a routine for nationals,” Miesner said. “I couldn’t quit on my team now, and that made going out for soccer nearly impossible.”

Alex Nelle, boys varsity tennis coach, has few concerns regarding whether his team will continue to be allowed to play.

“Tennis was one of the first sports to come back in the area, as the sport is conducive to social distancing,” Nelle said. “I don’t think the cancelling of the season last year will really impact our player’s performance much, as most of them have been playing tennis at the various racket clubs for the last several months.”

Much less offseason training has been available, but players were encouraged to take initiative and practice on their own. 

He said the biggest weakness after not having last season will be helping the players to understand different strategies of play. 

“The players in our program are extremely talented, so our focus this year will be to get them to understand the strategies that we use in matches,” Nelle said. “If we are successful in getting that taught to them, then I think we have a great season.”