Last season, North Dakota State knocked off USD, 45-48, en route to hoisting the Summit League Championship title. This loss ended the Coyote’s hopes at a sixth-consecutive team title.
Despite the loss, hopes of taking the 2020 Summit League championship were high. Of the six Coyotes to take home 2019 All-Summit League honors, only graduate Kianna Stewart left the team. Two of the five returners, junior Abby Ripperda and senior Jonna Bart earned first-team all-Summit League honors.
However, on July 28, the Summit League Presidents Council announced a delay in the start of Summit League fall competition due to the presence of COVID-19. That decision later turned to a postponement of all fall Summit sports until the spring of 2021. With the fall seasons taking a much longer hiatus than normal, and with uncertainty still in the air, student athletes are doing their part to continue to stay in competitive shape.
“We are still training similar to as if we had a competitive season with a little less urgency to be in tip top competition shape,” Bart said. “We really have time now to continue to build a great base for the track season while also doing some workouts here and there to see where we are at.”
Unlike other sports, such as football or soccer, cross country athletes do not have to worry about forced contact between players during training. While training and staying in shape have been big priorities for the team, remaining socially distant and doing their best to limit the exposure to COVID-19 has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
“One of the beauties of our sport is that we can train by ourselves if need be,” Ripperda said. “We try and socially distance at all times and try to run in small groups. We wear masks while we warm up. We try to use as little shared equipment as possible and clean it after each person uses it. We have temperature checks every time we show up for practice and fill out a questionnaire about our health. And if we do come into contact with someone with COVID we are encouraged not to come to practice.”
The downside to socially distanced training, Ripperda said, is how much harder it is to build strong connections with new teammates.
“The situation has definitely put a damper on the fall,” Ripperda said. “We have limited team time together, so it has really affected our ability to get to know each other as a team, which then can make it somewhat more difficult to support each other. But we are working with what we have.
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Despite the setbacks, Bart said the team has not lost focus and is preparing for the next season, whenever that may be.
“As a team, I don’t think we have really let the morale get low,” Bart said. “I think not having this season really increases motivation for the next. I don’t think this loss of a season has an impact on motivation for teams that really love their sport, and I am really grateful that I am part of one of those teams.”