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Ithaca College athletes train towards the future amid pandemic

Crew athlete uses rowing machine on porch
Senior rower Steven Van Hoof completes a workout on a rowing machine that he and his teammates set up on his porch to train. (Photo by Emily Adams/Ithaca Week)

Ithaca College junior Logan Bruce still remembers the devastation when she found out that the 2020 NCAA Division III Track and Field Championships had been canceled because of COVID-19 concerns. Bruce and her teammates had to fly home from Greensboro, North Carolina feeling unfulfilled, and when the spring track season was called off soon after, Bruce said she struggled to get back into her training.

“The first few weeks getting up to work out were really hard,” she said. “Besides the lack of motivation, there were a lot of hard feelings and heartbreak and a sense of, why? Talking with my teammates and coaches reminded me why I love the sport and still practice. This was not the end.”

Bruce is one of thousands of college athletes around the United States who missed out on sports seasons because of the pandemic. While some schools have resumed athletics this fall, Ithaca College’s decision to remain completely online for the semester has left athletes separated from their teams. Spring and winter athletes are trying to stay fit and hopeful for their upcoming seasons.

Bruce, who competes in the pentathlon and heptathlon, could begin the indoor track season in early January if winter sports proceed as planned. While being without the college’s resources — including weight rooms and athletic trainers — is a challenge, Bruce said that training in isolation is the most difficult thing for her.

“I’m used to having all of my teammates around, especially as a multi,” Bruce said. “The three or four of us [in the training group] pretty much go to every single meet and practice together. I’m used to having their laughs and personalities all around me to keep my spirits high and keep me going if I’m having a rough day.”

Track athlete does a plank in living room
Junior track captain Logan Bruce completes a core workout in her living room as part of her off-season training. (Photo by Emily Adams/Ithaca Week)

Senior Steven Van Hoof considers himself lucky — he is still surrounded by his teammates in his South Hill apartment. Van Hoof lives with three other members of the college’s crew team, so they are able to hold each other accountable for staying fit amid the uncertainty.

“It’s pretty weird, but not as bad as it seems, because I’m living with people who train too,” he said. “[Having them around] definitely helps motivate me.”

Van Hoof said he and his teammates go for runs, complete body circuits, and work out on a rowing machine that they set up on their porch. The machine, which belongs one of Van Hoof’s roommates on the crew team, costs over $1,000.

Senior Liana Shames has also had to be innovative with her training. Shames is a thrower on the women’s track and field team, so she is unable to train with any of the equipment for her events. Shames is also taking classes on campus as a physical therapy student, so she said she is not comfortable with exposing herself or others to COVID-19 by going to a gym.

We’re having the mindset that, no matter when we get to compete again, we have to be ready, so you have to train hard all the time.”

— Logan Bruce, junior track and field captain

“It’s really hard, especially to get motivation,” Shames said. “I’ve been doing a lot of cardio and bodyweight training. We can also do drills and things like that, but right now I’m just trying to stay in shape. I’m not just focused on track.”

Bruce said that, even though there is a real possibility the winter and spring sports seasons could be canceled, she is doing her best to think positive.

“With the drop of a hat, everything can change, so it is a thought in the back of my head,” she said. “We’re having the mindset that, no matter when we get to compete again, we have to be ready, so you have to train hard all the time.”

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