School’s out, but practice is starting

The Inter-Mountain photo by Brooke Binns Elkins High School boys’ track and field coach Matt Lewis addresses members of his team prior to practice Wednesday at River Bend Park. The team cannot use EHS facilities because of the continued walkout.

ELKINS — Despite the teacher and service personnel walk-out, middle and high school athletic teams in Randolph County have begun practicing for the upcoming spring season.

The walkout began last Thursday and continues today in many counties, including Randolph County. Neither classes nor school activities, including sports, have taken place on school grounds in that time. However, in order to be eligible to play in a game or participate in a meet, athletes must complete 14 practices beforehand. Therefore, coaches across Randolph County have been working with the community to ensure their athletes have a place to practice.

“Jamie Joss, Davis & Elkins College’s athletic director, has been a life saver for Elkins High athletics during this difficult time in education,” Ross Ware, the Elkins High School athletic director, said.

Jack Crumm, the EHS head baseball coach, echoed Ware’s thoughts, saying he and his team appreciate the D&E athletic department’s assistance.

“Monday, D&E allowed us to use their turf athletic field, and (Tuesday and Wednesday) we’ve used the field at Bluegrass Park, which is the Robin Harvey Memorial Field,” he said. “(D&E) let us use their inside facility at the old gymnasium in the event that we needed to because of weather but the weather has been pretty good, so we’ve been able to get outside.”

Crumm added the program has approximately 26 players coming out this year, saying that gives them enough players for both a junior varsity and varsity team.

James Markley, the Tygarts Valley High School head baseball coach, said their team has been lucky enough to practice outside Monday through Wednesday this week.

“We practiced the last three days at the little league fields in Huttonsville,” he said. “We’re good to go and have been practicing; we’re just hoping to get back to school because it’s going to rain the rest of the week.”

Markley noted he is pleased with the number of players who have made it to practice this week, saying the program has averaged 17 players throughout the first week of practice.

Other teams, including the EHS track and field team, have been able to make use of local public parks for their first few days of practice.

“Ideally, of course myself and the guys would much rather be at the track, but this essentially isn’t out first rodeo with being creative with practice, as winters past have forced us to reinvent the wheel and think outside the box,” EHS boys’ track and field head coach Matt Lewis said. “We are at a little bit of an advantage as we can run anywhere, so long as the weather cooperates.”

However, Lewis noted, while the team can run anywhere, athletes are unable to begin working on certain field events due to their inability to be at their normal practice facility.

“Where we lose out is being able to work on the jumping events,” he said.

In addition, although students have not attended school for several days, Lewis said many of his athletes have been dedicated to attending practice, noting practices this week have averaged 30 or more runners.

“They’ve been working hard and when we hit the track we won’t have as much to work on, and I give a lot of that credit to the help of my assistants Melissa Carr and Mike White,” Lewis said. “Of course we won’t know what our complete team looks like until school starts back up.”

In preparation for uncooperative weather throughout the remainder of the week and the possibility of not having school, Lewis said his team appreciates being able to make use of the facility at Axis Training in Elkins.