By Morgan Kogan, News Editor
In the face of the ongoing pandemic and an otherwise unusual school year, the winter sports teams – basketball, swimming, track and field, ice hockey, gymnastics and volleyball – are beginning to practice and compete.
As determined by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), sports have different start dates based on COVID-19 precautionary measures. Ice hockey started competition on Jan. 4, basketball on Jan. 26, swimming and track on Feb. 16, and gymnastics and volleyball on Mar. 16. The latter two teams usually compete in the fall; this year, however, the state association established a new season in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“We are not just trying to find a way for our teams to be successful in competition; we are trying to find new ways to coach and develop our athletes while dealing with a constantly changing schedule and a whole new set of policies and procedures,” ice hockey head coach Frankie Francese said.
Despite the many challenges, winter sports teams are hopeful about what is to come and excited to play as many games as possible. Teams are looking forward to being just as competitive as usual. Swimming and track are looking forward to dominating their divisions while ice hockey continues its rivalry with Morristown-Beard and basketball meets new teams in a tight pod with Marlboro, Manalapan and Middletown South.
“Our team has been in quarantine, but the fact that the season has started and other sports have moved forward gives me hope,” said Matt McCarthy, head coach of the varsity basketball team that faced a difficult start to the season due to quarantine restrictions but still managed a solid 2-4 start to the season despite the limited practice time.
Student-athletes are working to motivate themselves and their teammates through the good and bad moments of this season. Increased communication with new technology, such as Zoom, has allowed teams to gather virtually and practice despite being physically separated.
“It’s been difficult because it’s a limited season, but we are still trying just as hard and are motivated to do even better,” senior track athlete and athletics council chair Jordan Codispoti said.
Overall, the winter sports season is off to a successful start. The swim team won its first meet of the season on Feb. 16 with an impressive 115-55 win over Shore Regional, and after a few difficult early games, the ice hockey team celebrated its first win on Feb. 12 with a decisive 8-2 victory over Westfield.
“Students should embrace the challenges that this season presents, look at these as opportunities to grow as an athlete and, more importantly, as someone who can find a way to succeed in unchartered territory,” Francese said.