Alexandria winter athletes are staying ready, doing what they can amidst uncertainty
Alexandria senior guard Colton Roderick’s phone buzzed on Nov. 30 with a text message from the Echo Press asking for a few minutes to chat about how he was staying ready for a basketball season that still faces much uncertainty.
Turns out, he was in the middle of that preparation. Roderick was part of a group of more than 70 AAHS student-athletes on a Zoom workout together that afternoon. The workout was hosted by strength coaches who are giving kids guidance on how they can stay active and ready during a time when school is in distance learning and sports are on a pause through at least Dec. 18.
“They show us workouts we can do that are no weights related,” Roderick said. “They want to keep you moving the whole time, so it’s a good workout. It’s really nice because you know that the other athletes want to get back to their sport like you do. We’re all working to get better, so it’s really good just to see everyone putting in the work.”
Using technology to stay connected and trying to get in as many workouts as possible is where a lot of winter athletes for the Cardinals are at right now. Physically, they want to be ready if the seasons are allowed to resume. Mentally, they are trying to remain optimistic that will be the case in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Obviously, I want to be as optimistic as I can. It’s my senior year, the last go-around with the people I’ve played my whole life with since I started,” Alexandria girls basketball senior guard Mataya Hoelscher said. “I would like to think that we will get some sort of season.”
Roderick and Hoelscher are both part of Alexandria basketball teams that would have high expectations on the court in a normal season.
The Alexandria boys were in the Section 8-3A title game a year ago and have their top three scorers set to return in Roderick, Kristen Hoskins and Erik Hedstrom. Hope springs eternal at the beginning of every season, and athletes are holding onto hope that they will get a chance to play things out.
The Minnesota State High School League is holding its regularly scheduled board meeting on Dec. 3 where winter activities and athletics guidance is on the agenda.
“I’m really confident about us this year. We have a lot of talent back,” Roderick said of the Cardinals if they can get on the court. “I think we even got a little more depth this year with the juniors who came up from JV. We’ve got guys we can pull off the bench if guys need a break and not really wear us out that much.”
Basketball players in the area are unable to get into gyms during the current shutdown, so the lack of snow in central Minnesota has proven to be important. Hoelscher, Roderick and Alexandria girls basketball senior guard Jaya Hatlestad are all shooting outside as much as possible, along with doing skill-specific drills to work on parts of their game.
Kids are being creative in general about finding ways to stay sharp. Hatlestad has a hoop at home that she wheeled into a shed where she can shoot and work on her ball handling. She’s been lifting weights at home, working out virtually with other athletes and going for runs outside.
“Obviously, we want to be playing right now,” Hatlestad said. “That would be our main priority, but since we do have this pause, I think it actually puts us at an advantage because it gives us a chance to keep working out, keep working on our skills that will hopefully put us above other teams in the end.”
Senior Grant Rebrovich is set to be an assistant captain for the Alexandria boys hockey team. The Cardinals had open skate through the fall that kept them on the ice up until the Thursday before the Friday shutdown, but a lot of team building was done leading up to the fall.
“I’ve been really trying to make it a point to offer some stuff to get the guys together. Make sure the rookies and new guys feel comfortable,” Rebrovich said. “I’ve had the team over this summer a couple times to play yard games and go swimming in my pool, just trying to make it comfortable for everybody because it’s hard when you’re a sophomore.”
Coaches are always looking for leaders to emerge on teams, but that becomes even more important in times like this.
“There’s definitely a little more pressure,” senior girls hockey forward Anna Doherty said. “(Head coach) Molly (Arola) has talked to us captains on making sure we’re reaching out to girls and making sure they’re doing their job too so that we’re all coming in prepared. As soon as we do come in, there’s not going to be too much time for practice before we do start games. We really got to make sure we’re taking advantage of these workout opportunities.”
AJ Sparr is a senior for the Alexandria wrestling team who is only a handful of wins away from the 100-win mark for his career. Getting an opportunity to wrestle and reach that milestone would mean everything, but he also said he was not too optimistic when asked if he thinks they will get a season in. That hasn’t stopped him from working as if they will.
“That comes down to just a mindset thing,” Sparr said. “It does suck possibly not having a season. It’s not ideal, but we have to keep our heads right. It’s a series of ‘what ifs.’ If we have a season, we’re going to start that season off better than our opponents. If you want to look at it the other way and we don’t have a season, we’re still going to be more in shape than we would otherwise. It might not be the benefit you’re looking for, but there’s really no negative outcome to getting these workouts in.”
Being active is simply the lifestyle for most athletes, and they are going to do what they can to maintain that even during these unusual times. Right now, they are left waiting and hoping that they get a chance to have their work pay off with an opportunity to compete.
“If we did get a bit of a season, that would be everything in terms of finding a light in this type of senior year that we’re getting,” Sparr said.