Winter sports updates

As of Nov. 20, all Illinois sports scheduled to compete during the winter season have been paused. Here is an update regarding the status of OPRF’s winter sports season:

Boys Swim & Dive

Members of the Boys Swim and Dive team celebrate their sectional win in February 2020 (Ben Guerrero)

With coronavirus restrictions in place, Boys Swim and Dive is a medium-risk sport, making it difficult for the team to gather as a full group. “Usually, we practice for two hours right after school,” said senior swimmer Ben Guerrero. “Twice a week we would have one hour of dryland, like workouts in the weight room.” The team held one day of in-person tryouts before the IHSA’s decision.
The team’s intention during tryouts this season was to split swimmers into different groups over a week’s period, enforcing mask-wearing and limiting the number of people in each lane to two to three swimmers.
To compensate for the time out of the water, Head Coach Clyde Lundgren hosts Zoom workouts for anyone previously registered for Swim and Dive. “We’ve rolled out dryland opportunities through Zoom … hopefully they’ll have opportunities to keep their fitness up, even though we’re on a pause,” Lundgren said.

Drill Team
Drill Team is a sport that thrives on its sense of community. “We have big and little sisters,” said senior dancer Danielle Lindsay. “We give each other presents all the time … you really get close with every single girl on the team, which is so awesome.”
For Lindsay, Drill Team is a year-round sport, running from summer camps in June to the state meet in February. Watching the Drill Team perform is a main event of sports games throughout the year, a sense of stress and excitement for dancers and spectators that is thrown off by coronavirus restrictions.
“We perform at games, and if other sports aren’t in season, then we can’t perform anywhere,” Lindsay said.
This year, the Drill Team will conduct all of its competitions with other schools virtually to accommodate social distancing guidelines. Dancers must conduct socially distanced routines without contact movements such as lifts.
For teams to be eligible for judging, coaches must submit a recording to the host school, meeting the distance and angle requirements and with no editing. “This season will be much different than normal, but we will make sure it is a fun and safe experience for the dancers, especially our seniors,” said Head Coach Carley Tarantino.

Due to the risks provided by complex routines involving close contact, cheerleading has been moved to the spring and reclassified as a high-risk sport by the IHSA. “Major components of cheerleading are quad stunting and pyramid building, which would have required close contact, (so) we eliminated teaching those skills during summer and will also restrict it upon return,” said Head Coach Melody Brown.
Upon return, mask-wearing will be fully enforced, health questionnaires given to athletes, and floors will be marked a bit more than six feet apart. However, during the pause in competition, coaches provided outside opportunities for cheerleaders to relieve them of the stress and fatigue of virtual practice while preparing them for the spring.
“Our coaching staff all agreed that our athletes might’ve needed a pause from virtual cheer instruction routinely, and instead we provided them with outside sources to continue to build cheer skills,” Brown said. These sources include tumbling gyms that enforce safety protocols similar to the IHSA’s, ensuring that cheerleaders get more in-depth training.
The team prides itself in becoming more competitive as the years progress, Brown said, and despite the pandemic restrictions, she hopes the cheerleaders continue to grow. “I just expect our athletes to take this pandemic as seriously as possible … so that we can actually have some smidgen of a season,” Brown said.

Girls Basketball
Like cheerleading, the IHSA changed the status of basketball to high-risk, and the team has not yet begun tryouts.
“Without restrictions, (we would have) a practice or a game after school every day except for Sunday,” said senior athlete Rachel Hartman. “It’s going to be a lot different because I won’t be able to play as much with my friends anymore, we won’t be having the same (in-game) experiences … it’s tough not being able to know what (the season) is going to be like.”
Before the IHSA’s decision, the team held some socially distanced off-campus open gyms to keep players in shape for tryouts. Safe entries and exits were created for players and coaches, masks were worn, drills were spread out, and basketballs were sanitized whenever possible. “The (restrictions) did not seem as burdensome as expected,” said Head Coach James Coughlin.
Hartman’s senior season is still in jeopardy with the IHSA’s new restrictions. “Of course, I want a season, and I’m staying in shape … but as they keep pushing it back, I’m losing hope,” Hartman said. “It’s really hard to stay motivated because I’m thinking that we’re not going to get a season.”

Other OPRF sports scheduled to compete this season include Boys Basketball and Girls Gymnastics. The IHSA board will revisit the status of winter sports at its next meeting on Dec. 14.