High school sports has slowly come back to its usual pace of practices and game days, but it was a long process for many area athletes who couldn’t wait for their school teams to get going again.
Many area athletes weren’t given the go-ahead to play for their high schools until the start of the year, so they had to get creative and leave the area. Cross country runners like Cory Demo did participate in an abbreviated fall season as Lewis County-based schools competed. However many went out of the area to compete in meets across the state.
“We have a hardcore group of runners that are focused on competing,” said Demo, who has been named to the boys Class D all-state team three times with Beaver River.
The Beavers program often competes in events around the state during a traditional season in preparation for states. Traveling to Rochester one weekend and down to the New York City-area on another is nothing new, but Beavers coach Alex Barrett was fortunate to find the team as many runs as he did.
“We were lucky in some ways because there were many club-based runs,” Barrett said. “We had a very strong team this year.”
Wrestlers also made treks around the Northeast to stay sharp while still hoping for a season. They didn’t get their traditional season, but a few competed in the Journeyman New York State tournament that served as a surrogate for this year’s canceled NYSPHSAA tournament.
Indian River juniors Aiden Poe and Alex Booth competed at that event and other events during the prolonged offseason. They would often travel together and both said the company of their teammate was a benefit.
“(Traveling with Poe) has helped me all year round,” said Booth, who finished fifth in the 126-pound division at the Journeyman tournament.
Competitors are hoping the extra work will help them next season as athletes hope high school sports will return to a normal schedule. Wrestlers like Poe are eager to show their gains next year.
“My goal is show that I’ve improved a lot,” Poe said. “Next year is going to be my moment because it’s going to be my senior year,”
The outside events were also key in helping competitors recovery from slow seasons or injuries. Barrett credits this year’s slate with getting some of his racers in good shape.
“Corey Demo had an outstanding season and Colton Kempney was able to get back to a higher level,” Barrett said.
Another big reason that area athletes have been competing in events out of the area is to get out in front of college recruiters. High school games are often where college hopefuls can show off their skills to potential recruits. Without them, tournaments out of the area have been a boost.
“I think these events help put my name out there,” Booth said.
Coaches were happy to take the athletes to these extra events in order to get them in front of college coaches.
“These events were useful to get our runners out in front of people,” Barrett said. “We’ve got potential Division I and II recruits that can get a scholarship.”
Demo ended up signing a national letter of intent with Division I University of Buffalo for cross country and track and field.
Despite being able to compete in an altered way, many athletes would have preferred the way they competed before 2020.
“I wish we did have a normal season,” Poe said.