“It was difficult to avoid running into and touching people on the other team.”: Student reactions to COVID-19 restrictions

Although+different+from+past+seasons%2C+the+girls+cross+country+team+happily+sits+one+to+a+seat+on+the+bus+and+wear+their+masks+in+order+to+abide+by+safety+guidelines.+

Whitney Sweet

Although different from past seasons, the girls cross country team happily sits one to a seat on the bus and wear their masks in order to abide by safety guidelines.

Gemma Mueller-Hill and Tara Goff

COVID-19 emerged greatly in March 2020, altering all aspects of life, including spring sports this past year. Fall sports are no different. The GHSA implemented new regulations out of concern for the safety of athletes and coaches, including wearing a mask, limiting group sizes, and altering the format of competitions, specific to each sport.

Students’ viewpoint on the situation at hand varies. Incoming freshmen are participating in ways that they never imagined, perhaps having expected one thing from watching their brothers and sisters in the past, while seniors are bittersweet about their traditions being taken away from them. However, this could be considered as a memorable last season as well. Ray Manus Stadium will look different without the packed crowds of Hornet fans of all ages, although the decision to give seniors first priority for tickets may liven up the stands as they come together amidst this adversity.

As the cross-country season has officially begun – the meets having limited schools participating and the boys’ and girls’ teams being separated – there is a sense of sadness over the new reality. Because of the large size of the team, it is important to create a sense of unity among the athletes, becoming a tight-knit group in order to cheer each other on when training and races can be difficult.

Mary Rains, senior, notes how she always looked up to older runners in past years. “When you run cross-country for four years, you look forward to that senior year where you get to use the tactics that other seniors had used in the past to bring the team together,” she says. “Obviously, this year was a lot different so we had to focus on bringing the team together when we couldn’t physically train together during the summer. I was really grateful to have a really cooperative team who was willing to work with the silly spirit days during quarantine.”

Those new to the sport notice the efforts taken by the seniors. Marley Smith, freshman, said that the team members were a lot nicer than she expected, and is excited about how close the team is. She feels the support from others as she runs and enjoys cheering others on as well.

Regarding the actual sport, however, she is learning to navigate unexpected challenges. After the first race against Centennial, Smith stated “It was annoying having to wear masks. I wish I didn’t have to be so cautious while running, for example it was difficult to avoid running into and touching people on the other team.”

Athletes this year are not only facing hardship by missing out on Roswell traditions, but by the basic expectations of ay given sport as well. Difficulties arise regarding safety, as there is no way to separate everyone in a race, and running in face masks can be challenging, not to mention dangerous, in the heat of September and October. Teams all around are facing the same struggle, and it seems as though the only way to take caution is by limiting group sizes. However, part of the excitement of cross-country comes from the vast competition, therefore causing hurt feelings in the running community.

For further information on COVID-19 affecting sports, see Nicole’s article on specific changes in sports. https://theroswellsting.com/5112/sports/what-are-new-rules-for-athletes-during-the-pandemic/