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HCA athletes getting back to work while staying safe

The track and field athletes at Heritage Christian Academy have been trying to stay in shape even after the cancellation of their season due to COVID-19.

John Stricker is the head coach of the cross country and track and field program, so he’s made it a priority during quarantine to make sure his athletes are finding safe ways to continue conditioning.

For the past couple of weeks the athletes were training on their own, but now that restrictions are being lifted Stricker has had some of his older, more experienced runners gather for some small workouts while practicing social distancing.

“I didn’t want to invite the whole team because I didn’t know who would feel comfortable and we would have to cut it off at 10, so I just invited a handful. It wasn’t too complicated to do drills or find a location,” Stricker said.

The athletes now meet two times a week with the group never including more than 10 people.

Stricker said training his athletes to stay apart and use social distancing during practice is similar to educating the runners on the best way to run.

It’s a process and takes time, but with each practice the athletes better understand the responsibility they have to not get too close to a teammate.

“I figured if I taught the older ones and advanced runners first, when we start introducing it to others the older ones would say, ‘We need to spread out.’ (to the other athletes),” Stricker said.

Stricker said the group has been meeting in open spaces with no benches or objects for the athletes to touch.

Whether it be on the field in front of Goodyear Baptist Church or Stricker’s own property, the athletes have started coming together to train in preparation for the fall cross country season.

Stricker said when he first sent the word out about trying to put together some small-scale workouts the replies were overwhelmingly positive.

“After they ran they realized we’re back and they were so happy. I could see they were excited to get out and see each other again even though they weren’t (allowed to get) close,” Stricker said.

The environment may switch frequently and the practices may not have the same number of athletes at them, but it’s a positive first step for the competitive runners to get back into training as a group.

When full-scale practices without restrictions will be allowed to take place is unknown, but Stricker said he and his athletes will do what they must to ensure everyone is safe while working out.

“They understand this may be our new norm. We’re all adapting. The parents are good at it too. I didn’t have to say much or do much, just remind them (to social distance),” Stricker said.