By Olivia Denson

With SLIAC officially postponing all competitions until no sooner than  2021 due to the pandemic, Principia College athletics are looking much different this semester. Despite the disappointment of the usual slew of game attendees who populate the fan section, this change has brought about a renewed and enriched sense of “team” for the athletes on campus. 

This deferment of competitions and the addition of strict COVID-19 regulations has given athletes opportunities to get creative with how they practice. In this new environment, athletes are pushed to stretch themselves in  ways that they aren’t necessarily used to or haven’t had to do before.

Student athletes, especially, are urged to abide by the campus’ pandemic regulations, as doing so will allow the college to remain in  “Yellow Phase,” which permits the utilization of athletic facilities. As they’ve adapted to the current reality, Principia’s teams have channeled their sportsmanship towards overcoming the challenges presented by the pandemic.

Junior Emme Schaefer, right, competes for Principia at an unofficial cross country meet on Oct. 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of Nadine Terrell.

Junior Emme Schaefer said  one benefit of this shift is  that the men’s and women’s cross country teams were able to hold their annual Rio Run along River Road during a cooler portion of the season. Usually, the Rio Run is held during preseason training in August, but this year it was pushed back to September which Schaefer said was “ideal.” 

The goal of the Rio Run is for the women to complete 8 miles and the men to complete 10. This season, Schaefer completed the 8 miles for her first time – and in under an hour. 

“I was a little bit apprehensive before because I wasn’t sure if I  could maintain a fast pace for this distance, but was excited to see what kind of progress I  could make,” said Schaefer. 

Senior cross country runner Afton Leslie commented on how this run for her was inspired by her team and knew going into it that her motivation “had to come from a completely selfless place if [she] was going to attempt the full 8 miles.”

The success of the Rio Run, which took place on is just one  example of how the idea of how teams have adapted positively to these unusual circumstances; there are more opportunities to hone skills, strengthen metaphysics, and to unify teammates. 

Leslie said that she “felt prepared to let [her] love for [her] teammates and God be expressed however it needed to be” throughout this unprecedented athletic season.  While there are immense benefits to competition, there is also much to be gained from a few months away from the fast-paced attitudes and schedules that contests induce. 

Senior Afton Leslie competes for Principia at an unofficial cross country meet on Oct. 9, 2020. Photo courtesy of Nadine Terrell.

Principia’s athletes are determined to make this  season rewarding despite the change in plans and pace.  Even though they are not participating in games or meets, these students are redefining what it means to be successful athletes, and will surely carry  this renewed sense of team into  next season’s competitions. After all, it is the goal of all Principians to take the inspiration gained through adversity and use it to move forward, staying. uplifted and humble.

Members of Principia’s cross country team pose with coach Sedge Southworth, right, and Principia’s mascot, the Panther. Photo courtesy of Nadine Terrell.

Image courtesy of Sophie Hills