Ben Rihn ’22 Sports Editor
The culmination of a successful fall term on campus on every front—namely with regard to athletics—has been largely undone by a return to square one. The Mercersburg Academy community is experiencing deja vu, finding itself in a situation similar to last spring. As a result, winter PGA groups have lost vital time in skill development and team bonding. So it begs the question: how does the athletic department plan to supplement this experience upon the return to campus?
Four winter sports intend to offer a spring season for their athletes—basketball, diving, squash, and wrestling. While navigating conflicting schedules and accommodating students’ commitment to sports in which they specialize present a challenging feat, one thing is sure: a meaningful PGA experience that benefits Mercersburg athletes in as many outlets as possible is of primary importance.
A diving season without a pool, and more importantly a board, cannot match a season with them. Therefore, it was necessary to initiate the conversation about a spring diving season during the winter. “There are divers who may decide to pursue diving in college and it’s important for them to be able to develop their skills this year,” states coach Jennifer Smith ’97. Some of these athletes are already committed to the US Military Academy at West Point and the United States Naval Academy. This only heightens the importance of a spring season.
On the squash courts, coaches must take into account not only the skill level of the players, but a larger, co-ed roster. “My vision for the spring squash season is to have a way that the top level players can train—possibly every weekday,” says coach Ryan Tyree. Consistency is everything when it comes to honing one’s skills, hence the motivation to extend practice time to a daily basis despite being out of season. That said, Tyree is cognizant of the reality that athletes have other spring commitments. “I also envision a hybrid set up where some of the players will be able to split some days with us, and some days with another PGA,” he says.
Wrestlers have been preparing for what seems like, and truly is, months. The coaches hosted a series of challenges last spring that continued into the summer. 1,000 strength and conditioning workouts prepared them for whatever was to come. Needless to say, the wrestlers are ready for their season come springtime. To finally kick it off, there are plans to put the wrestlers’ fitness to the test and see who is the strongest wrestler pound-for-pound. With the potential of an impressive wrestling season comes the possibility of strong performance in other areas though. Coach Nate Jacklin understands, similarly to Tyree, that athletes typically participating in wrestling’s winter season may be involved in another spring sport. “I have encouraged all the wrestlers on the team to consider becoming a better athlete by competing on a ‘normal’ spring sports team and to bring their tenacity and mental strength to another program.”
Even with hopes for the continuance of winter sports, it can be difficult to remain grounded in the training regiments needed to prepare. Smith puts it best when she suggests, “Try to stay connected with your team as much as possible.”
If anything is to be learned from the pandemic, it is that the Mercersburg community is stronger as one.