Summer conditioning for local athletes came to an early halt Wednesday as superintendents for school districts throughout Santa Cruz County ordered an end to the socially distanced workouts during the coronavirus pandemic.
Their decision came 10 days after conditioning officially began and five days ahead of an expected announcement from the California Scholastic Federation regarding sports in the 2020-21 academic school year.
Also not working in fall sports’ favor to start on time was the Pajaro Valley Unified School District’s announcement Tuesday that it plans to start the school year with fully remote learning. Santa Cruz City School, San Lorenzo Valley Unified and Scotts Valley Unified have yet to announce plans for the fall, academically.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen, but hopefully we get to play,” said Soquel High lineman RJ Wyrsch, who on Tuesday was named an SI.com All-American candidate. “I’m going to stay optimistic. Everyone is going to keep working. We’re all motivated to get better and do what we can.”
What they can’t do is be at summer conditioning, partaking in stretches and sprints with their teammates and classmates.
“It was extremely difficult to tell them that people pulled the plug on them,” Aptos football coach Randy Blankenship said Wednesday night. “They walked off the field very slow, with their heads down last night. They deserve to be able to play. They’ve been working all year round and it showed in the six days out there. It showed. They were light-years ahead of where I thought they’d be.”
There were 138 new COVID-19 cases reported in the county since Monday, bringing the it closer to falling on the state’s watch list.
Blankenship said he and his coaches followed safety protocol and that his athletes wore masks to and from the field. Athletes also had their temperatures taken before each session.
Now, the Mariners will return to what they’ve done since mid-March, when shelter-in-place orders went into effect: Zoom meetings three days a week with online workouts. Players competed in squat jumps, core exercises and push-ups.
“We had a lot of kids get bigger and stronger,” Blankenship said.
Blankenship’s quarterbacks went to the beach and threw passes to invisible receivers and sprinted after their passes to retrieve the ball themselves, he said.
Santa Cruz athletic director Erik Redding said he’s unsure if Santa Cruz City Schools will continue remote learning when the school year starts and how that’ll effect athletics — if there are any in the fall.
“We’re going to wait and see the direction of the CCS and CIF,” he said. “They’re supposed to meet Monday and Tuesday. Once we see that …”
Scotts Valley athletics director Louie Walters said the Falcons haven’t done any organized team conditioning. He said he didn’t want to put athletes at risk and noted that last week’s start date for conditioning was so close to the expected CIF announcement.
“All our kids have worked out off campus on their own,” he said. “They didn’t do it at Scotts Valley. And they’ll keep doing it because it’s not an organized event.”