Many aspects of life have been impacted by COVID-19 and Meredith College Athletics are no different. Guidelines and sidelines have changed throughout the seasons, but student-athletes are trying their best to stay positive. The Meredith Herald spoke to several students about their experiences this season and how COVID-19 has changed their experiences.
Olivia Mason, ‘23, told The Herald about her experience on the soccer team this season. Her season is looking different this year not just because of COVID-19 but because of an injury. Mason explained, “Injured players are not allowed to travel with the team. So I can only attend home games, which is not fair. I still show up to every practice, get tested and am committed to being on the team, yet I cannot travel with them to away games.” Mason would love to be able to support the team both at home and away, but that’s not possible. She said she understands why protocols are in place and respects them, but it is difficult. Mason went on to comment, “Not being able to have more than a couple of players in the training room has also discouraged players from injury maintenance. For instance, a player may need to be stretched or taped but cannot get into the training room because of occupancy rules and must wait for another player to say finish icing or heating.” This can cause players to disregard maintenance, which could lead to more injuries.
Aly Henneberry, ‘22, shared her perspective as a tennis player. She stated, “Since tennis is a spring sport, when COVID-19 first hit our season was canceled.” The tennis team had just begun to play matches to get ready for conference. Henneberry said, “My doubles partner, Brittney Speeney, and I were working really hard to have a great last season together as she was graduating that semester.” In 2019, they had made All-Conference together, so they were excited to have a chance to make it again. However, due to the start of the pandemic they were unable to finish their season. As a dedicated tennis player, Henneberry commented, “It’s felt weird going now over a year without competing. This is the first time since I was in fourth grade that I’ve gone that long without competing.” Having gaps like this can be detrimental for players, but Henneberry said not everything has a negative impact. She elaborated, “I’m very fortunate to be a tennis player because tennis is already a very low-risk sport and you are usually very naturally distanced from any other players. However, one [area that is] making some adjustments is playing doubles. Usually between points or games, doubles partners will talk and strategize or high five to celebrate great shots.” Now, because of COVID-19 guidelines, this has changed. Doubles partners now have to remain distanced and refrain from their high fives.
Andrea Gallegos, ‘24, shared her experience with how the cross country season has been impacted by changes. She said, “COVID-19 affected my cross country season by suspending it and moving it to the spring. Instead of having multiple races in a normal season, we only had one conference race for us to compete in. As a freshman, this is not how I imagined my collegiate season. It would have been nice to have more races, but I am thankful we still get to compete.” Gallegos also talked about connections on the team: “One difference I have experienced with my cross country team is the lack of team bonding activities. Usually, there would be team dinners before meets or other bonding activities.” Gallegos, along with Mason, both emphasized that the loss of this experience has been disappointing for them because team building can be so important. Gallegos also said, “One thing I want those who aren’t playing to know is that all the athletes are trying their best to handle such a chaotic semester and balancing their sport. Being a student-athlete is definitely not easy but it is so worth it.”
The safety protocols in place at Meredith ensure that the Avenging Angel teams are safe and that they get to play. For all the students The Herald spoke to, fan support was one thing that has continued to uplift them during the pandemic. Mason commented, “Having fans cheering us on in games always brings the intensity of the atmosphere up and pushes us to play harder for them.” Henneberry said, “Supporting our teams may look different now than in seasons past, but any form of support can make all the difference!” Gallegos also said that fans are motivating for players, and added, “I feel encouraged when I see the support of the Meredith community.”
By Kaylee Haas, Staff Writer