’Good for the soul’: Local high school athletes back in action with summer workouts

Rick Peterson Jr.
TMP-Marian athletes work out in the weight room. TMP and Hays High both began summer workouts this week.

After a layoff of more than two and a half months, Hays High and Thomas More Prep-Marian athletes have spent this week easing back into the swing of things.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association ruled last month that schools could begin summer programs Monday after the coronavirus pandemic brought a halt to athletic activities for about 80 days starting in mid-March.

Hays High and TMP officially began their summer workouts at the beginning of the week.

“It’s been good for the soul,” Hays High football and track and field coach Tony Crough said. “It seems like the kids are excited to get up there and probably be around someone else besides mom, dad, brother and sister. It’s been good. A lot of activity and a lot of excitement.”

“I tweeted (Monday), I haven’t been this excited to wake up at 5:15 in the morning in a long time,” said James Harris, TMP track and field head coach and assistant basketball coach. “For me, it was more to get there to see the kids, and I think the kids were excited to be around their teammates and their coaches.”

Both Crough and Harris said their respective schools are taking multiple safety precautions. The athletes have been split up into small groups during workout sessions and keep their distance from each other as much as possible. The equipment is also constantly sanitized.

Crough said just under 200 Hays High School athletes have reported for workouts, which are split into different sessions throughout the morning. Each athlete’s temperature is taken before entering the HHS weight room.

After the long layoff, Crough said, the initial workouts have been light.

“We kind of have to go back to square one with training and start from scratch and assume that nobody’s done anything for three months and start building from there,” Crough said. “The worst thing you can do is start right back where you left off and get some kids injured.”

He noted that the conditioning level of many of the athletes was better than expected.

“We expected a lot worse than what we’ve seen,” Crough said. “You can tell who’s been doing some things and who hasn’t. Some kids have more resources, some don’t. … But they look good. We were really impressed.”

Harris said 114 TMP athletes, including those at the middle school level, showed up for workouts on Monday.

“I definitely was able to tell that some of the kids have been getting in some work over the last two months,” Harris said. “Some of the kids just flat out told me, ‘Hey coach, I haven’t done anything over the last months.’ We knew that coming in.

“It’s important for the safety of our athletes to be able to just slowly ease them back into things.”

More than anything, Crough and Harris said the best part about the workouts has been getting the athletes together in one place again.

“It’s been really good for everyone’s mental well being and just their soul just to get back into some sense of normalcy and sense of what our lives were like before,” Crough said. “… I think the kids are just super excited to be out there and be a part of something again.”

“For me, it wasn’t necessarily about the workouts or anything, it was just about getting back to some normalcy and spending some time with the kids and continuing to build relationships,” Harris said.