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Coaches and athletes hope prep sports return this spring

Coaches and athletes hope prep sports return this spring

The high school spring sports season is marked by its variety. At Lebanon High School, athletes can compete in track and field, baseball, softball, golf and tennis.

All of those sports are currently on hold as the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) has imposed a moratorium on competitions and organized team activities in response to the statewide school closures. Schools are currently slated to be closed through April 28, but it is not certain if classes will be able to resume the following day.

This uncertainty extends to coaches, who do not know if the spring sports season will start on April 29, be delayed until later, or be called off entirely. If there is a spring season, the demands of each sport will impact how coaches proceed.

Golfers and tennis players, while rusty, should be able to compete fairly quickly after a moratorium is lifted. But baseball and softball players, especially pitchers, will need some time to get ready. Track and field is also complex because of the wide variety of events.

Lebanon High track and field coach Cameron Eberhart said he knows some of his athletes are working out on their own because they post information on social media.

“Kids will post stuff online that they’ve done some runs, or someone will post a picture of working out. I know some kids are more serious about it in hopes we do come back,” Eberhart said.

He is uncertain how much time is needed to compete in a meaningful season. He would like his athletes, and especially the seniors, to be able to compete in a couple of meets. But he’s not sure there’s time for the usual district and state competitions.

“I don’t know if one month is enough to really put everything together and say ‘these are our star athletes,’” Eberhart said. “With only a few weeks under everyone’s belt it’s really hard to say ‘these are our state champions.' These are the kids that are more naturally gifted."

Kellen Peters, the athletic director and track and field coach at East Linn Christian Academy, is more hopeful of holding district and state meets.

“If we get the go-ahead on April 28, we’re going to make the most of it. I’ve already got a plan in my head if it does end up happening. It will give us basically three weeks until districts and then a week until state. The whole team, but especially the seniors, they would take a four-week season over nothing at this point,” Peters said.

His primary goal is to have the students return to the classroom to end the year. ELCA started online classes with its high school students the week before spring break. But there are several memorable events that Peters hopes students can still celebrate.

“Especially for the seniors, having a little bit of a senior year, spring season with all of the other things that are going on, graduation, senior trips and spring sports. Who knows if that’s going to happen,” Peters said.

Lebanon High softball coach Mardy Benedict said his squad was just starting to round into form when the moratorium was imposed in mid-March. He thinks it is possible for softball to ramp back up fairly quickly and he is sympathetic for his baseball colleagues who face a much trickier task.

The pitching motion in softball is not as hard on the shoulder and arm as the pitching motion in baseball. A softball pitcher can grow tired, but is not nearly as likely to experience injury due to over-throwing. Softball pitchers can throw more often and with less concern for pitch counts. 

“The biggest thing, probably Jeff (Stolsig) would worry about it more, is pitching arms. It’s a little bit different for us. Still, building accuracy and consistency takes practice. It’s a different motion, kids can go more,” Benedict said. “I think we could get ourselves ready in a week or so.”

Stolsig, the varsity baseball coach at Lebanon High, confirmed his colleague’s concerns. Preparing pitchers to compete safely takes time and if the season is going to begin in early May, there should be a system in place statewide for coaches to oversee their progress. Video workouts might be one solution to the problem, he said.

“I think what we’d probably need to do is talk about is what kind of schedule we want to put together. If we’re talking about one or two games a week we could probably all be ready in a week. If we’re talking about trying to squeeze in three or four games a week, we’re going to need more time than that to get pitchers ready,” Stolsig said. “I think most kids are probably playing catch and keeping their arms in shape. If we had a week I think we could make it work.”

If the schedule does resume, the Warriors coach thinks the rules for pitches will need to be modified for this shortened season.

“I think we’d have to do some modifications. I think most coaches are professional and would do that anyway, but there might be a few fellows that might be a little green that might need some assistance with that,” Stolsig said. “I think we should probably have some modified pitch-count rules. I know our coaches, we are thinking about those things, because that’s what we do.”

Lebanon High senior Alex Solberg is continuing to train while he hopes a track and field season can be salvaged. He is a distance runner and had his eyes set on claiming the LHS school record in the 3,000 meters this season.

“I’m just running, training like I would be and hoping for the best,” Solberg said.

But he is also trying to be realistic and that is impacting his workouts. He is changing to an offseason schedule which is focused on improving fitness instead of preparing to compete.

“I’m going to start transitioning into more workouts. I think it’s pretty obvious that this season, it’s not looking good for this season. If I do have some competition it’s probably going to be later in the summer,” Solberg said.

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