Returning to practice together, but apart

Athletes react to first week of practice

Sabrina Jiles and Mesaged Abakar

David Njeri, a junior nursing student, who is a transferred sprinter/jumper from Wingate University (NC) last season is doing a post-practice glute stretch. (Jacky Chen)

After six months of sports being canceled, athletes are finally getting the chance to lace up their shoes for Seattle Pacific University athletics. Falcon athletes have begun practices in socially distanced groups while wearing masks.

In a more traditional year, SPU athletes would have been back to practicing towards the end of August and

developing their rhythm. During a year with the COVID-19 outbreak, there are now delays in sports agendas.

With the season postponed, everyone was unsure of what would happen next.

“Initially, I was heartbroken because I thought I would never ever play volleyball again,” said Maddie Batiste, a senior on the volleyball team.

However, the tentative plan is for all Falcon sports teams to play an abbreviated season in the Spring, and have begun practicing for the season ahead.

a girl runs on the track in the raining
Jenna Bouyer, nursing junior sprinter, keeping up her form as she completes her last set of 200m repeats in Seattle rain. (Jacky Chen)

“We would have come back usually around August 12, way earlier than we did this year. We would have been traveling and doing double days so my body would have been drained by now. Now I’m fresh and ready to go.” said Batiste.

SPU fall athletics started practicing again this past Monday, but in a more modified format. Athletes and coaches have been taking extra steps and following more regulated guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 throughout their programs.

Team members and coaching staff are continuing to social distance during practice and athletes are limited to only interacting with members of their practice pods and not the entire team. Equipment is constantly being cleaned, there are constant temperature checks and COVID-19 testings.

A face mask has now become part of the uniform.

“It’s definitely annoying having to run with masks, but usually when we wear them on campus we’re stretching. So it’s not too bad because usually when we’re off campus we can take it off and then put it on if we are running by someone” stated men’s track junior Brayden Schultz.

For others, wearing a mask isn’t as easy.

“It was literally going in my mouth and I was eating my mask. So that was like a distraction and like it was really hard for me to focus on what I was actually doing” stated Batiste.

With the new formatted practices, athletes are still getting adjusted to their new reality.

“Normally we would come in and be doing workouts already. Kind of been in racing shape, like we already would have had a race at this point during a normal year. It’s definitely been a little different, like the practices have been building up base and more easier runs to get back in shape before we really start doing workouts,” stated Schultz.

Michael Gabelein, a short-distance sprinter freshmen from King’s High School, powering through the pain of standing piriformis stretch as he cools down from the 200 meter repeats. (Jacky Chen)

Since practices are only allowed with a certain amount of people, practice becomes more about drills and less about competition.

“We split the team into halves so 15 train at a time and out of those 15, we’re in groups of four with the people we live with. We stay six feet apart, wear our masks, can’t do any contact drills,” stated women’s soccer sophomore Callie Rheaume.

Even with the mixed emotions of practicing with masks, the athletes are still excited to be practicing again, although it may look different.

“My first practice was great. We slowed things down from the simplest passing keys to get the girls to learn our system working in four pods of four,” stated Batiste.

Although there are various guidelines, athletes are pleased that they still have practice.

“As long as we’re out there together, we don’t really care what it is,” said Rheaume.