CHSAA Sports Are Back!

The Cathedral Prep and Seminary varsity cross-country team is eager to compete. Pictured, from left: Head coach Larry Medina, Derek Bustillo, Joshua Lall, Nicholas Abernethy, Gabriel Valverde, Davi Gil, David Rofaiel and Dominic Franco. (Photo: Courtesy of Larry Medina)

Some Fall High School Contests Resume amid Pandemic

Finally, after months of patiently waiting during the COVID-19 pandemic, CHSAA sports in the Diocese of Brooklyn are back! Starting Sept. 21, the following fall sports were able to once again resume practices, with actual contests starting up soon after: soccer, swimming, bowling, tennis, cross-country and softball. Absent are football and volleyball, which have been, for now,
pushed to the 2021 spring season.

Excitement abounds as student-athletes and coaches get back to doing what they love. These first few weeks have been a bit of a transition, yet everyone is on board with ensuring practices and competitions take place with all proper safety procedures in mind.

“They want this, and they need this in their lives,” said Larry Medina, head varsity cross-country coach and athletic director at Cathedral Prep and Seminary, Elmhurst.

“They’ve been inside for so long. Kids were emailing me all summer, and I had no answers for them. I felt so terrible. I just told them stay in shape, and when the time comes, we’ll be ready to go.”

Cross-country is one of the safest sports at this time. Not only is it an outdoor sport, but student-athletes are also able to maintain six feet of distance at all times.

One of the major hurdles for cross-country runners is that they must wear a mask — even while running. They are able to pull it down when they’re alone, however it must be worn for the first quarter of the race, whenever a runner passes another and at the finish line.

“It’s harder because you have to get used to the mask,” said Cathedral sophomore cross-country runner Chris Acevedo. “You have to find a way to get used to it. It’s a hard adjustment.”

Races are only allowed to have a maximum of 50 runners, so staggered start times will become the new norm. Once runners finish the race, they immediately head home and later on find out their results.

In soccer, the same safety protocols that exist in school apply as the student-athletes arrive for practices and games. Everyone’s temperature is checked and recorded, and players are expected to wear their masks until they get out onto the field while maintaining their distance as much as possible. Without a full preseason, players and coaches are doing their best to prepare.

“These first two weeks have been kind of rushed, and we’re just trying to get it together before the first game,” said Anna Bolino, a senior center midfielder on the Fontbonne Hall Academy, Bay Ridge, varsity soccer team.

“I really had no faith that anything was going to start. When we heard that we were able to play soccer again, we were all so excited. Just being able to get out of the house and do something is just our main priority right now.”

Bonnies head coach Ziham Ascensio, in just her second year with the team, is pleased with the progress her players have made given the circumstances.

“There has been a huge improvement from day one,” Ascensio said. “The girls are looking pretty solid. Even though we’ve been practicing for so little, I would say the girls are ready for competition.”

Just like cross-country, tennis is a sport that can be played without too many changes during a pandemic. In addition to temperature checks and screening for COVID-19 symptoms, athletes must wear masks to and from the court area but do not have to play with a face covering.

“This year’s been a rough one for everyone,” said Mary Edward, head varsity boys’ and girls’ tennis coach at Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood. “I want to get the students doing something that they love. We’re not sure what the next few weeks are going to look like, but it’s better to get them out there with the sports that they love with the team that they love.”

The pandemic has shed light on what’s really most important when it comes to playing a sport. Things are surely different, yet everyone must make the best of the situation.

“I’ve learned how important it is to acknowledge the little things in life such as being able to play tennis with the people I am so close with,” said Molloy senior Arden Arabian.

“I have also learned to have more patience and be appreciative to everyone that is making sacrifices to make the season happen.” Coach Edward pointed out an important truth about sports that is so applicable to the current times: Playing is not about winning. It’s about overcoming challenges and persevering through difficult times.

The fall 2020 CHSAA sports season won’t be remembered for which teams finish in first place. It’ll instead be remembered as the season where sports persevered amid a global pandemic.

Contact Jim Mancari via email at