Nanooks begin cross-country practice
In the face of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic the Nome-Beltz Nanooks held their first cross-country running practice on Thursday, July 27. About 20 runners turned out to begin the season with coaches Jeff Collins and Corey Erikson. The virus took top billing but running was right in there behind it. Coach Collins explained how this season is going to be different.
“First of all, everything that applied to all past seasons is out the window,” began Collins. “I have had to separate our groups. Where once we traditionally had three groups, this year I’m looking at five to keep numbers down. Another one is as of right there is zero travel for any sport. So we get to run against each other a lot.”
Included in running against each other will be leader boards organized through the online tracking application Strava. There will be three courses set up around Nome and the runners will run the courses individually for time. Strava uses cell phone GPS to track a runner’s course. It keeps track of time as well. Another possibility is the runners will ride a backhaul flight to Kotzebue, spend a day in quarantine, then head out onto one of the Kotzebue courses and run against each other. Then the Kotzebue team runs the same course. Times are compared for placings.
“Running is unique in that we’re not indoors, it’s a solitary activity, so if a kid is motivated they can get faster during this time,” said Coach Collins. “It’s not impossible but will be more difficult. The students are excited to be out here and see some other human beings other than just their family.”
The Alaska State Athletics Association has detailed protocols for athletic training and competitions on their website. The Nanooks will be following the guidelines laid out by ASAA.
“The only information we’ve received from the state, from ASAA, is that they are not cancelling anything,” said Collins. “August will probably be a no travel month. With Nome still having travel restrictions in place with quarantine and also with Anchorage easing off their face mask mandate until the 31st I don’t see travel happening much this month, if at all during the season.”
Collins is looking at a young team which has much potential for growth. “Most of the team is comprised of freshmen, which is exciting, because there’s a lot of opportunity for growth,” he said. “When I took over, I saw it was going to be a building year. And that’s what last year was.” Some of the runners have been in contact with him over the summer, working with him to achieve better fitness before the season begins.
“Tobin Hobbs had a large breakthrough last year. We’re looking for him to go into the mid-16s for the 5K. He’s showing that promise. He did heart rate work in some of the summer races.” This year there are sixth graders, a first. The sixth graders are also new at Nome-Beltz this year, as the school district made the decision to move the sixth grade from the Elementary School to Nome-Beltz.
There are five questions the coach will ask before the beginning of every practice. These questions are in addition to a temperature check for each athlete. 1. Have you had a fever in the past 72 hours? 2. Do you have a persistent cough? 3. Do you have a sore throat? 4. Are you experiencing unusual shortness of breath? 5. Have you had close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days? These five questions are suggested by ASAA.
As of Thursday, the first day of practice, the Bering Strait Region had logged 19 COVID-19 cases. There was only one active case.
After asking the five questions Coach Collins announced “Everyone passed! I will not ask you those questions after practice because everyone will probably answer yes to four of them.”
With that the runners began their warm up drills.