Preview of the Winter Sports Season

Kara Lynch and Jessica Lin

Many people think about fall as a time to celebrate Halloween, Thanksgiving, and nice weather. For others, it is time to get back into sports. However, Swim and Dive, Indoor Track, Girls Basketball, and Wrestling are activities with contact and heavy breathing, and thus encountered setbacks last year. 

Swim and Dive

Loud cheers of teammates become an echo of the past in comparison to the stark difference of no spectators during meets for Woodson’s Swim and Dive. Last year, in addition to wearing masks before and after practice, there was no cheering allowed and the sense of family was gone. Senior Kathleen Modder, a 2021 swim and dive captain says, “there were no team dinners last year, and that was awful.” 

Swim and dive, usually a coed sport, was also split into separate boys’ and girls’ practices. In spite of everything, they had positive energy and had a great sense of community. In the Covid year, swim and dive didn’t have any cuts made to the team. 

Susan Hamrock, a Woodson Swim and Dive Coach. Photo by Zoe Fenner.

“We wanted people to be part of a team, to be connected and part of Woodson. We had 50 girls and boys with divers in addition to that,” says Susan Hamrock, a swim and dive coach. 

However, this made last year’s team much bigger than before. As a result, there were separate meets for the girls and boys to lower the number of people in contact with each other.  Coach Hamrock says a downside of having separate meets was that they were “much faster and harder for the kids” with no rest time between strokes.

“[Swim and Dive] being a coed team makes it really fun. You get to meet a lot of people and meet different personalities. You get really quiet people who are just there to swim, and the loud in-your-face people,” Modder says, with a laugh.   

Oak Marr Recreation Center. Photo by Kara Lynch.

“I love coaching this team because it’s getting to see the kids outside of school. They are so disciplined, motivated, and structured. They get up early to swim, then they go after school to swim, and then they swim for the high school,” says Coach Hamrock.  The exciting return to the pool and the upcoming season is also fed by the thrumming anticipation of going up against Woodson swim’s biggest rival, Robinson Secondary School. 

Last year, Woodson’s boys won district, Robinson boys won regionals, and then Woodson boys won second place at states. “[We hope to] win district and regionals, place high in states, have fun, and be the most spirited and the loudest,” Modder says. 

Modder talks about the team bonding activities she misses and can not wait to get back to. Some of the swim and dive team’s bonding activities include speaker wars, dance parties, and pre-practice pep speeches on the bus. Modder says the pep speeches are given by the captains right before practices on the bus and it gets athletes hyped up. Modder says, “I never thought I would want to be on a bus, but I do.” 

Track

After a year of running with masks on, Woodson’s indoor track team is ready to be fully back. Some Covid procedures that Track followed last year included checking temperatures, QR codes before coming up to the field, and wearing masks while running. There was also a smaller team. Despite that, the track team was able to make a lot of improvement. “With a smaller team there was more one-on-one coaching,” says Woodson’s Track and Field Head Coach Katarina Zuber. 

As winter approaches, Indoor Track is picking up with around 150 runners after a successful cross country season. “Tryouts are pretty low-key,” says junior track runner Samik Binhge, “the cuts aren’t too strict because there is a lot of room for improvement.” 

Track practice. Photo courtesy of Alicia Kim.

“Many people don’t understand how much work goes in before [runners] can run that fast,” says Coach Zuber. “Most people get a lot better by junior and senior years so it takes four years and a lot of commitment. Not everyone can be the best but it’s not all about that. You can make a lot of improvement between your freshman and senior year.” Track meets every day after school Monday through Friday and some Saturdays. 

In track, runners compete individually against other runners or in within small groups, called relay teams.  Senior Rommel Pagkalinawan talks about the 400-meter dash and the relay team as things to look forward to. As for what it takes to get on the relay team, Pagkalinawan says that “hard work and dedication go really far for every runner.” 

After a challenging 2020-2021 season due to Covid-19 restrictions, Pagkalinawan says that he is “really looking forward to the meets, and just running with everybody again is something [that he] missed a lot.”

 As the cross country season has come to a close, Zuber reflects on the Woodson Cross Country team’s season, saying that “[they] had a phenomenal season with the boys getting third and girls in fifth in the state.” The track team has also come a long way and looks forward to making it all the way to states, especially when competing against West Springfield, Woodson’s biggest track rival. 

Girls Basketball

This year Woodson’s Girls Basketball team is thrilled to get back on the court. Over 70 girls tried out. Two year JV basketball player sophomore Aida Berhe says, “I’m super excited to have an audience watch us play! We weren’t able to [have spectators] last year due to Covid, so it’ll be nice to hear a crowd.”  

W.T. Woodson Home of the Cavaliers sign with a basketball. Photo by Jessica Lin.

Last year, with returning head Coach Erik Cassily, the girls had a unique season. Tournaments were limited and there weren’t as many games. During the season there would sometimes be “pauses” due to Covid outbreaks.

Sophomore Sabina Neidrcik recalls the last season, “Our performance last year was actually really good. We had great team chemistry and made it to district semifinals and regional quarterfinals, but lost to West Springfield in both of those games.” The season ended there for them, but their team spirit continued to grow. 

“I’m most excited for the bonds that are going to be created this year,” senior Eunice Yoon exclaims. She says, “ [she is] already looking into multiple [team] bonding activities,” so that the girls basketball team can have the, “best chemistry.”

This is Yoon’s fourth playing for Woodson: “I’ve observed the other seniors for three years since my freshman year, I’ve been able to learn how to lead by example and [I] am trying to do that this year.” 

Winter sports have loosened the reins slightly with Covid protocols. Yoon says this year they won’t have to play with masks. “[The masks] were definitely hard to adjust to!”

With a growing Freshman, JV, and Varsity Team the girl’s basketball team is confident heading into the 2021-22 season.

Wrestling 

Now let’s step off the court and onto the mat. The Woodson’s Boys Wrestling team is ready to compete. This year, the team has around 45 wrestlers. Like most winter sports Covid impacted the last season. However, that didn’t stop the team from a great performance. Head Coach Robert McCarthy recalls that, “last year was a strange season due to COVID protocols, however the wrestlers competed well and enjoyed the opportunity to have a season.

Just like their players, coaches are happy to have a more normal competing schedule. 

Woodson wrestling room. Photo by Kara Lynch.

“Watching the kids grow and mature over the season and over the years, most [of the wrestlers] make huge transformations during the course of their high school careers,” says Coach McCarthy about what he appreciates the most about being head wrestling coach. 

“I’m excited to just wrestle in general,” says sophomore Mateo Torres. For eighth and ninth grade Torres lived in Korea, and with the virus wrestling (which is a heavy contact sport) was, “completely shut down.” 

“I missed out on sports as a whole for two years, so it’s been great to play again,” he recounted. Torres has been wrestling since was seven and is, “so happy to be back [into wrestling].” He shared that he’s currently in the midst of a tough training week, a wrestling tradition designed to get athletes ready for the season.  “The first week of wrestling is what the team calls ‘hell week,’” he says, with a laugh, “it’s really difficult.”