Former ETHS student-athletes talk sports during COVID-19

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Illustration by Isabel Gitten

The return of college sports this year looks different from conference to conference. Former ETHS student-athletes who now play in college share how they’re handling all the change.

Charlotte Varnes, Reporter

In May, the NCAA announced it would cancel its spring sports season. With cases increasing across the U.S., the landscape of college athletics has complicated the reality of ETHS student-athletes this fall. 

While some conferences, such as the Big Ten, are limiting sports games, others, including the Southeastern Conference, have allowed all sports to continue. The changes to college athletics have impacted several former Evanston Township High School student-athletes who compete in different conferences throughout the country.

Some former ETHS athletes chose to stay in Evanston rather than train on their college campus. Enyaeva Michelin, a 2018 ETHS graduate, runs track and cross country for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

While UNC opened its campus to all students in August, Michelin said she stayed home because she was concerned about the lack of safety that comes with a highly populated campus community during the pandemic. Her fears were realized when UNC sent all students home just one week after the start of classes.

UNC is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference, which allowed cross country teams to compete this fall, so Michelin’s choice to stay home barred her from running in meets. She has stayed in touch with her teammates through Zoom meetings, and uses the same training plan as them, but said training alone has been among her “biggest struggles” during the pandemic.

“Running is one of those sports that you do your best when you have like-minded people around pushing you,” Michelin said. “I think distance running can definitely get lonely without people next to you.”

But not all former ETHS athletes made the same choice as Michelin. Lucy Hogan, a 2019 graduate and diver at the University of Michigan, is living in Ann Arbor and practicing with her team.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the Big Ten is uncertain about allowing the team to compete this year, but she said the NCAA decision to grant athletes an additional year of eligibility was “reassuring.” Hogan said her coaches and the university’s athletic staff have tried to keep team spirits up despite the pandemic.

“They’ve done a good job trying to keep a sense of normalcy and positive attitude even though nothing is normal right now,” Hogan said. “Our coaches don’t know if we’ll have a season or not, but they still encourage us to come to practice and work hard every day.”

Brendan Long, a 2020 ETHS graduate and a swimmer for Washington University in St. Louis, where he has been living on campus since early September. He said the university’s later move-in date likely contributed to the relatively few coronavirus cases at the school.

One swimmer tested positive for COVID-19 during move-in, but Long said the person was quickly isolated and no one else on the team tested positive. All team practices follow social distancing rules, and the athletes only lift weights outside due to limited capacity in their weight room, Long said.

Long is unsure what the season will look like this year. WashU’s conference, the University Athletic Association, canceled championships, but the NCAA is still planning to hold Division III Championships with limited capacity. He said despite the unknowns, he feels “really lucky” his team is holding events and bonding outside of practice.

“The older kids on the team have done a great job bringing us in and making us feel like part of this community,” Long said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

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