Fall teams set to take important step forward

The first Monday in July doesn’t usually possess a Christmas-morning level of anticipation, but this year is different.

Return-to-school guidelines implemented by the Indiana High School Athletic Association allow athletes and coaches to meet as a team starting today. It is the first hint of normalcy after spring sports were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those interacting for the first time in months will approach each other in a manner which mirrors society’s battle against the pandemic:

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Two steps forward, one step back.

“That will be one of the big culture shifts,” Greenwood football coach Mike Campbell said. “How do we interact without a hug or a high-five?”

Despite the precautionary nature of the gatherings, athletes know they are the first step of there being a fall sports season.

“I’m really excited,” said Indian Creek football player Connor Fruits, a senior running back who transferred from Center Grove midway through the 2019 season. “I can’t wait to see my guys, and with a new coaching staff we’ll have a lot of things to go over.”

As of now, girls golf will have its first official practice July 31 with the regular season slated to start Aug. 3. Other fall sports will begin practices that same day, with Aug. 15 set as the opening date for competition. High school football season opens with Week 1 games Aug. 21.

Those dates, though, are all subject to change based on how the pandemic is trending in terms of severity.

“We are going to do whatever we can do as far as conditioning and strength training goes. Our first priority is to get in shape and that everyone is on the same page physically,” Campbell said. “The big thing is just to see the kids again and be around them.

“We’re just ready to go, just like everyone else.”

Like many athletes, Center Grove girls soccer player Macy Detty has used texts and FaceTime to communicate with teammates and coaches the past few months. She looks forward to being in the same room with teammates while making sure to remain at a safe social distance.

“I’m excited to get back and see my teammates because I haven’t seen them in so long and want to actually talk to and interact with everyone again,” Detty said. “I’m trying to stay positive. It will be different, but it’s better than nothing.”

The Trojans’ opener is scheduled for Aug. 17 at home against Columbus North.

Franklin girls cross country could also be poised for an outstanding season with the return of seniors Lillian Lacy and Sydney Clements along with junior Jenna Newton. That trio, combined with a group of heralded freshmen led by Lauren Klem, have coach Ray Lane anticipating big things this fall.

The distancing caused by the pandemic gave Lane an opportunity to let his leaders lead.

“Really, what I’ve been telling our upperclassmen is that by the time I get there in July, the tone is going to already be set,” Lane said. “We have some people joining us for the first time, so it will be nice to see faces again. To be able to have conversations and start to build excitement and that vision for the season.”

The same is true with Center Grove volleyball. Seniors Rylie McMcMahen and Grace Boggess, along with junior Katie Egenolf, have kept in contact with teammates during the pandemic to make sure workouts are being conducted.

“I’m really looking forward to getting the kids in the gym together,” third-year Trojans coach Chris Due said. “I know they’re anxious to get together and play volleyball.”

Cami Kelsay, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter who led the Franklin volleyball team with 299 kills last season, looks forward to the Grizzly Cubs’ first team meetings under new head coach Jess Giles.

“I’m super excited. It’s going to be great to be together in practices and meet the incoming freshmen,” Kelsay said. “I miss them a lot. It’s such a good environment, and building relationships is such a good thing for building a team.”