SILVER SPRING, Md. (WDVM) – To student athletes in Montgomery County, Saturday felt like a dream.
“I was not thinking it was going to happen,” Northwood high school senior left tackle Sid Dillen said. “Even like two weeks before it happened, I wasn’t thinking it was going to happen.”
High Schools across Montgomery County returned to the practice field Saturday for in-person high school sports. It’s marks beginning of the delayed Fall sports season for MCPS athletics.
“Last night, you can’t really sleep, because you’re finally getting back with your guys after nearly a year,” Northwood head coach Marcus Mayo said. “It was outstanding to see everybody. Everybody’s spirits were up. You know some hootin’ and hollerin’ and just ready to get after it.”
The coronavirus pandemic has left fields silent and empty, but Saturday’s long awaited return, brought excitement, emotions and strongly desired camaraderie. According to the CDC, COVID cases and percent positivity are approximately as low as they’ve been since the Fall in Montgomery County.
“I’m so happy to be out here,” Dillen told WDVM following the team’s practice Saturday morning. “I’ve been waiting a really long time for this.”
But with the excitement, comes the new normal.
“The hardest part was not being able to just go up and hug your guys,” Mayo said. “You have to keep your space and maybe an elbow bump.”
Students must bring their own water bottles and hand sanitizer. Everyone must wear a mask and remain six feet apart, while staying in assigned pods. The team says, it’s a trade off they’re willing to make for a chance to play.
“It’s just a challenge you’ve got to get used to,” Dillen said. “Sports are all about challenges that you’ve got to overcome.”
While they’re thrilled to be back, coaches and student athletes are recognizing that the return needs to be a safe one.
“We’ll remember that this impacts everyone. It’s not just us out on this field,” Mayo said. “And just being as safe as possible. It’s a learning process, but as long as you give the right intention and bring the right intention to do it correctly. Hopefully things will be fine.”
As part of MCPS athletics’ R.A.I.S.E. return to play plan, there must be practices and conditioning for 20 days before games can be played. If it is deemed safe by the county and local health officials and metrics, at that point, games could be played. All sports besides football – cheerleading, cross country, field hockey, golf, soccer, handball and girls volleyball – can start scrimmages as early as March 19. Football, could start on March 26.
“I’m so happy for everyone, I can’t wait to see all of the sports out here getting the socially distanced workouts in,” Mayo said. “Our athletic director just did an outstanding job prepping us for it. I can’t wait to see everybody. It’s exciting.”