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High Schools Return to Practice

Athletes navigating new rules ahead of Winter season
Published: Dec. 30, 2020 at 8:10 PM EST
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JERICHO, Vt. (WCAX) - For the first time since March, the gym at Mt. Mansfield Union High School has been abuzz with activity this week.

“Super excited to be back in this gym, back where we belong as a dance team and back together,” said Megan Leach, a senior on the state champion MMU dance team.

“I got a text from my mom, I think on the last day before break,” added Alex Leamon, a senior on the Cougars boys basketball team. “I was very excited because it’s been kind of a waiting game.”

After the Governor’s announcement to allow high school sports to begin practicing on December 26th, MMU was one of the first schools to ramp up, giving dance and both basketball teams use of the gym for two hours each day since Monday. It has been a welcome change for the student athletes.

“Dance team is really what’s get me through Winters,” said Christiana Davis, a dance senior. “Winters tend to be really long and hard in Vermont, and practice at 6:15 every morning, you gotta get out of bed, you gotta get going and it just always gives me a really positive start to the day.”

But things obviously aren’t completely back to normal. Everyone must wear a mask, and the practices have to focus on individual skill work with no contact allowed.

“Ball handling and shooting and definitely our fitness because that’s something that you can work on with or without a ball,” said senior basketball player Mason Digiammarino. “The plays and chemistry will all come after that.”

It’s understandably tough for the basketball players to not really be able to work on defense or live game action, but it has forced some changes for the dance team too.

“In past years, we’ve always been like, ‘Oh what do we do here? Oh we can do a lift here,’” said dance senior Owen Bauman. “We don’t even have that option anymore. We’re gonna be on the grind, coming up with new things and new ways to make these dances look awesome.”

There is also still a question as to if and when the kids will be able to ramp it up for actual competition...and how different things will be when that happens.

“I think everything’s gonna be weird in the post, it’s gonna be weird playing defense,” said Cougar junior Sean Farrell. “Everyone’s gonna be all off.”

“We always harp on like, ‘Make sure your facial expressions don’t slack off,’” Leach added. “It’s gonna be different this year, we’re gonna have to figure out how to express what we want to express to the judges through our bodies and not our face.”

But for now, they’re just happy to see their friends and start to prepare for a season many thought would never come.

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