Sports

Eli Fishman & Sofie Paternite, Sports Co-Editors

With hopes of continuing their athletic careers in college, high school students have been forced to persevere through cancelled college visits, sports seasons and showcases to achieve their goals. A few Columbia High School (CHS) students in particular have found new and unique ways to showcase their skills in the age of coronavirus and continue to work towards an athletic career at the next level.

Hall warming up for Columbia game
Photo Courtesy of: Kaijhe Hall

Despite the challenge of having only her running times from sophomore year to submit to colleges, Svea Wickelgren, ‘21, committed to Lehigh University for track and field this fall. “It was hard,” she explained. “I was expecting to have a faster [running] time junior year… [but] I had to get recruited with my sophomore year time.” 

Girls basketball star Kaijhe Hall, ‘21, faced challenges when her spring club sports season was wiped away. This is usually the time when basketball showcases and tournaments take place, and college coaches recruit. When all the opportunities for Hall to play in front of coaches were eliminated, her club team filmed workouts. “This demonstrated we were still active during the pandemic,” Hall explained. “When we received the opportunity to play in tournaments that would be live streamed, I perceived this as my last opportunity to project my talent to college coaches.”

Wickelgren running in an NJ track meet
Photo by: Garden State Club

The videos and live streams of Hall impressed recruiters, and she committed to Assumption University.

In order to attract the attention of college coaches, many athletes have turned to social media. Platforms such as Hudl, where players can create their own highlight reels and post them, have flourished over recent months. 

“There weren’t any coaches coming to our games to scout us and it’s hard to go on college visits,” football player Owen McGuffey, ‘21, explained. Therefore, “social media was a big part of the process.” 

The social media page, Flatground, has become the go-to platform for baseball players to be seen. Flatground posts submitted highlight videos of athletes to their large following that includes professional and collegiate scouts and coaches. 

With his junior season wiped away, baseball player Luca Graziano, ‘21, turned to Flatground and other platforms to help promote himself. Lacking varsity level statistics, and with no showcases to attend and impress college coaches, social media and emails have been his only option. 

“The cancellation of the season also fueled me to come back my senior season a better, faster and stronger athlete,” Graziano said. “It pushed me since coaches wouldn’t see me as much.”

Rhodes competing for the U.S.A Fencing Team
Photo by: jhuemer Photography

Adding to all the unknowns are the uncertainties surrounding the future of college athletics, according to Next College Student Athlete, the pandemic has affected the sports recruiting budgets for 73% of collegiate teams. After the canceled spring season, all spring sport collegiate athletes were granted an extra year of eligibility, meaning each player on the team is allowed to play an extra season. This has created a backlog of players, and has resulted in overcrowded rosters and less playing time for underclassmen. These factors make dedication all the more important this year. 

Graziano up at bat for the Cougars
Photo by: Sherri Schmidt

Though she has been verbally committed to fence at Columbia University since her freshman year, Zander Rhodes, ‘21, acknowledges that there is a lot up in the air. “I think it is important to recognize the commitment involved,” Rhodes said. “You will be very busy and have to give up other things that you may enjoy.”

Wickelgren added that, “To be a committed athlete I really believe you have to have a love for your sport. In addition, you have to have discipline,” she continued “You also have to be very dedicated to your work ethic. You don’t make excuses for yourself.”

There’s no question that this year’s recruiting class has experienced a whirlwind of challenges in order to showcase their talents and accelerate their athletic careers. While uncertainty still surrounds the immediate future of college athletics, these CHS athletes have worked hard to remain active, visible and focused.

Designed by: Charlie Hummel