Spring Athletes and COVID-19
April 27, 2020
When the Palo Alto Unified School district announced that in-person classes would be closed through the end of the school year, that also meant the end of spring sports. These athletes were in the middle of their seasons and had to stop practicing as a team to help control the spread of COVID-19.
Ritter Amsbaugh (‘21) had high hopes for the Paly baseball team this year after coming off of a strong season last year. The Paly baseball team won the SCVAL League Tournament last year and made it to the Open Division CCS. The team lost to Valley Christian, a top ranked team in the state, 3-1 in the first round of the CCS tournament.
The Viking’s started off their 2020 season strong, winning five of their games and only losing one. Amsbaugh, the third baseman, has been on Varsity since his sophomore year and was excited to have this season to win more games with his teammates.
“I was looking forward to playing baseball and playing good competitive baseball,” Amsbaugh said.
The baseball team had been training since summer for this season and were prepared to be the SCVAL League Champions, but their season ended before they could play in a league game. Even with their season cancelled, the team is still staying in touch through social media and agreeing to do some similar workouts. But, nothing is the same as practicing with your team.
“I miss being out on the field with my teammates and with my coaches,” Amsbaugh said.
It is also difficult to keep up with training because some baseball skill work requires a large field. Amsbaugh notices that without these facilities, it is hard to train fielding or hitting.
“I really wanted to play, but being a junior I know that I still have one more season,” Amsbaugh said. “I know it hit some of our seniors way harder, because, for some of them, that was the last opportunity they had to play baseball.”
Amsbaugh has already had the opportunity to play a varsity season his sophomore year and, if schools open up next year, will still be able to play in his senior season.
Rachel Ellison (‘22) was eager to start her season on varsity lacrosse after playing on junior varsity her freshman year. Paly girls’ lacrosse has a reputation of being a strong team in the SCVAL league and they were hoping to continue their momentum. Last year, they made it to the SCVAL league finals, but lost to Los Gatos in a close game.
“One of our main goals was beating Los Gatos,” Ellison said. “That’s been a rivalry for a while so that was definitely a main goal.”
Unlike other Paly sports, lacrosse did not have a CCS tournament in past years. This year was going to be the first year that lacrosse had a CCS tournament which would have given teams an opportunity for more competition and game experience.
Besides doing well in leagues and CCS, the team wanted to push each other more in practice and try harder overall. Even though Ellison cannot meet up with her teammates to practice, she’s focused on improving her lacrosse skills by herself.
“I try to play wall ball almost every day,” Ellison said. “But it’s sad because it’s not the same not being able to even do a drill with other people.”
Ellison enjoyed practicing with experienced players and felt very included by her new team.
“They were really welcoming and encouraging while still being hard on you,” Ellison said.
Ellison is still keeping in touch with her teammates through group chats, and her coach sends out optional workouts to do. Ellison still has two more years of high school and knows that she will get many more opportunities to play lacrosse.
“I don’t really want to complain because I would be more upset if I was a senior,” Ellison said.
Unlike Ellison, Ashley Guo (‘20) was in the midst of her senior season on the swim team before school got cancelled. Guo has been on Paly’s varsity swim team since her freshman year and has been a captain since her junior year. Guo has helped the Vikings win two league titles over the past four years.
After a tough loss in leagues last year, when the girls’ team lost to Gunn, the Vikings were motivated to win a league title this year and beat Gunn. Along with winning a league title, Guo also wanted to reach finals in an individual event at CCS because she has only qualified for the CCS finals in relays. Guo also hoped to compete at States in a relay.
“I was most looking forward to leagues and CCS, which are big meets,” Guo said. “But I also was really looking forward to senior night.”
Even before school was closed, the SCVAL league cancelled swim meets which made Guo upset because she believes that meets make swimming more fun and worthwhile. Before meets were cancelled, the girl’s swim team was doing very well.
“We had a really great team and I think that we not only could have done really well at these championship meets, but up to the school closure we hadn’t lost a single meet and we totally demolished everyone,” Guo said.
Guo was excited for the rest of the season because she believed that everyone worked well together and were very supportive of each other. Guo appreciated how everyone was working together towards a common goal, a collaborative attitude that can take years of joint practices and team bonding exercises to build.
After swim practices were cancelled, Guo still stayed in touch with her teammates through group chats and Zoom calls. Her teammates are even working out together through Zoom to stay in shape.
Even with this season over and public pools closed, Guo still wants to stay healthy by exercising. Guo has continued exercise by running and biking as well as strength training. But despite her resiliency, a characteristic the pandemic situation has forced on her and many of her teammates, Guo wishes that she could still be training with her teammates everyday and experiencing senior traditions.
“I think everyone feels bad for the seniors which shows that we care about each other, and because of that, I am not that upset,” Guo said.
Although her season is over, Guo keeps looking at the bigger picture of this pandemic, and hopes that others will do the same.
“You’re allowed to feel sad about things being canceled, but at the same time I think it’s good to keep things in perspective and understand that this is a really interesting time [and] we need to consider what’s happening all around us rather than just the little things,” Guo said. “People are getting sick every day and doctors and nurses are risking their lives. It’s okay to sacrifice a little of this for public safety.