PTHS athletes play the waiting game as COVID-19 takes the field

Brennan LaBrie
blabrie@ptleader.com
Posted 9/8/20

This school year will be a strange one for students at Port Townsend High School. Most students will be taking classes entirely online, and those taking classes in person will do so in small groups …

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PTHS athletes play the waiting game as COVID-19 takes the field

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This school year will be a strange one for students at Port Townsend High School. Most students will be taking classes entirely online, and those taking classes in person will do so in small groups on alternating days.

And for student athletes, the strangeness starts a week early.

In past years, the last week in August sees student athletes return to the courts and fields, beginning their training for fall competitions before classes begin in September.

But not all PTHS athletes are able to do that this year. 

On July 21, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association announced a modified sports season calendar involving four condensed seasons in which football, girls soccer, 1B/2B boys soccer, and volleyball were postponed to the third season, to start in February. 

Some fall sports, such as cross country and swimming, are set to continue in the fall, with their championships held in the spring.

SOMETHING WEIRD

While those athletes get set to return to practice soon, others, like Sorina Johnston, co-captain of the girls soccer team, will stay home and find ways to remain in shape for the postponed seasons.

“It’s really, really odd,” Johnston said of not returning to practice this week. “It’s fall. This is when soccer would start and it’s so weird that it’s not — my body is off from it.”

Johnston said she was highly anticipating returning to the pitch with her team, reuniting with her teammates of the last three years and getting to know the incoming freshmen and show them the ropes.

Instead, she’s had to find ways to stay active apart from her team, creating a solo workout routine that she plans to continue until her basketball season, which — like other winter sports — is scheduled to begin in December. And she hasn’t had to be pushed much to work out.

“Exercise has been what’s keeping me sane,” she said.

She’s been running, something that was never part of her training regimen before, with a neighbor who is on the swim team. She’s also been playing pickup soccer with a group of local players of all ages and skill levels.

“It’s fun to just get out,” Johnston said.

For the first time in her life, she’s prioritizing getting in shape for herself, not just her teammates.

“I’ve always played team sports,” Johnston said. “I’ve always been ‘My team is everything’ and filling in wherever I need to, doing whatever I can for them to succeed ... but now I’ve been focusing on myself, which is a totally different experience.”

Johnston has dedicated every fall to playing soccer since her early childhood, and filled up every season in high school with sports or acting in the spring musical. She said she’s curious to see what it will be like to spend the fall off the field. An avid student, Johnston said that an upside might be the ability for her to focus on a full-time schedule at Peninsula College in the Running Start program.

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS OUT

Logan Massie, a junior running back/linebacker on the football team and a wrestler in the winter, is in the same boat as Johnston. Massie has been hard at work in his home gym all summer, training for a football season that is set to begin toward the end of this winter. 

He’s packing on muscle, but he said it just isn’t the same when he doesn’t have his teammates surrounding him, pushing him to get stronger. However, he is thankful for the support of his coaches, who sent him an individualized workout plan to keep him busy in the coming months, and who check in on him periodically to hold him accountable. 

He had made a lot of plans for this season, and Massie still sees them being in his reach — as long as he keeps up his workout regimen into the spring.

For football, he aims to help his team achieve a higher win-loss record than last year, grow closer than ever before, and of course, win their annual matchup against rival Chimacum. 

And on an individual level, he wants to “just kinda stand out from the rest,” he said. “Make a name for myself. And try to help out the team as much as I can.”

He knows this season will present unique challenges.

For one, he’s used to football season progressively getting cooler as summer turns to fall. In the spring, the weather will grow progressively warmer. Also, he’s not sure about how the whole “Friday Night Lights” tradition will work.

“I like playing under the lights, and that’ll be kinda weird doing Friday night football under the sun — that just wouldn’t feel right,” he said.

In wrestling, he hopes to return to the state championships and this time make the podium, a feat he was one match away from this past February.

Massie knows that achieving his goals may be a challenge. Both the wrestling and football seasons will be condensed, with fewer teams likely to participate, as well, and will have a crossover of at least a week.

That, and like most things right now, the winter season is not set in stone, either, with its fate resting in the hands of COVID-19’s spread or decline.

“I don’t know how that is even gonna work,” Johnston said of the upcoming basketball season, considering that numerous schools in the Nisqually League, PTHS’s league as of last season, have announced that their schools will be entirely remote this year. Some schools may opt out of competing, and non-league play may be cancelled.

Nonetheless, Johnston said that she is remaining positive about the chances of playing her final two seasons of sports. 

A SHORTENED SEASON

Gina Brown, Johnston’s teammate on the basketball team, is as well.

“I think it’s gonna be really short and sweet seasons and you just really have to go for it and give it all you can, and hope for the best,” Brown said.

Brown, who also runs cross country and track, said she has been embracing the opportunity to grow as an athlete and person in the face of adversity. She’s also created a personal workout routine for herself.

“In times like this you need to rely on yourself,” she said. “During these times, it’s so unpredictable with how sports and schooling will turn out — you just have to be ready for whatever life throws at you! My goal is to become the best version of myself on the court and off. And wish for the best.”

And while the athletes noted that the shortened seasons and crossover won’t be ideal, there is one large benefit to this new arrangement: Fall sports players will have more time to get in shape for their seasons, especially if they play a winter sport.

Johnston said that usually by the time her team is fully in shape, the season is almost over. 

For Massie, he sees wrestling as being the perfect springboard for the football season.

“It will be good to go into football in the best shape of my life,” he said.

Johnston, Massie and Brown all emphasized that despite their disappointment at the situation, they support the postponement of fall seasons and the potential cancellations of seasons if necessary.

“I’m gonna miss starting out,” Massie said. “It’s always a tradition, going back to school, starting football, having the first game, getting to go out under the lights. I’m going to miss it for sure. But it’s for the safety of others, so I’d rather do that than rush it, risk it.”

Brown echoed his sentiment.

“We’re really bummed we can’t get together and work out and have fun as teammates. But on the other hand we understand that we have to stay separate to be safe if this virus is going to go away,” Brown said.

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