It was a Christmas present that still needed some unwrapping. Taryn Ringer, though, had been on the go so much that the strip of athletic turf, 16 feet by 12 feet, hadn’t been rolled out yet in her home that she’d been gifted.
A couple of weeks ago, that changed.
“This was a good time to do it because we’re doing nothing,” a laughing Ringer, a multi-sport star at Johnstown High School, said this past week.
But that’s not totally true — that is, the “doing nothing” part isn’t quite accurate.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down so much of everyday life across the country and has halted organized athletic activity for high school athletes through at least the end of this month. But that hasn’t stopped area athletes from continuing to find ways to hone their skills and keep improving for if and when the games and practices come back, and that goes both for stars missing out on spring seasons of high school competition and standouts who utilize the spring as a critical part of their offseasons.
Ringer, she fits into both those categories. The Johnstown junior heads outside to bike or run for miles, and keep her stick skills sharp for lacrosse in case some of the 2020 spring season is able to be played, while Ringer — a Duke University commit for field hockey — uses the turf in her basement to go through her field hockey drills without endangering any windows.
“I can do a lot right now with my stick skills,” Ringer said, “and that’s really helpful.”
While area athletes dealt with the disappointment of seeing their seasons shut down, they’ve found ways to alter their routines rather than cancel them. It was easy to be disappointed when competitions were postponed, La Salle Institute sophomore running star Gitch Hayes said, but that frustration can also be used as motivation. The 15-year-old Hayes has developed into one of Section II’s top cross country and track stars, and he intended to use this spring to drop his times further and continue to impress coaches at the next level.
“So it’s been difficult some days, but I just look to what I want to do in the future,” Hayes said, “and I focus on those goals.”
Even without the promise of competing any time soon, Hayes’ training includes running 55 to 60 miles per week and strength workouts. For some of his running workouts, his brother and neighbor will help by riding their bikes so he has something to chase.
“But I am only a sophomore,” Hayes said, “so this isn’t the end of the world for me. I still have two more years.”
For Andre Jackson, he’s using this time to look at a future that extends beyond even further than that. An Amsterdam native who starred at Albany Academy, Jackson was slated to head to the University of Connecticut at some point late next month to start preparing for his first season with the Huskies’ men’s basketball program. That date to depart from the Capital Region has now been postponed indefinitely, while access to local courts has become difficult to gain.
“Basketball, it’s hard right now,” Jackson said. “You can’t play indoors anywhere. Outdoors, all the hoops are taken down.”
That’s tough, but Jackson is trying to turn that into a positive. A high-level recruit who played AAU basketball with the Albany City Rocks program, Jackson has played . . . and played . . . and played in recent years. In the last month, he’s tried to use his down time to refresh both his body and mind.
Physically, he’s focused on low-stress workouts and making sure his 6-foot-6 frame is properly stretched. Mentally, he’s devoted extra time to drawing and writing as a way to clear his head. When he’s ready to resume his regular routine, he wants to be refreshed.
“I just want to get something out of this break,” Jackson said.
Like Jackson, Stillwater’s Brooke Pickett was planning to use a large chunk of this spring to make sure she was prepared for the next level. After leading her high school team to a pair of state championships in girls’ soccer, this spring was supposed to be about making sure Pickett is ready to make the jump to Division I soccer with the University at Albany women’s program.
And Pickett is determined to make sure that still happens. The 17-year-old still can work on her individual skills as a soccer player, but she’s also making sure she runs and lifts weights. Her set of dumbbells at home isn’t expansive, but she’s partially filled an empty five-gallon water jug with coins so she has something heavier — and unique — to lift.
“Doing the same thing,” Pickett said, “just gets boring after a little while.”
Schalmont senior Mia D’Ambrosio can relate to that. One of the top sprinters in the area and committed to compete at the college level for North Carolina State, the 18-year-old D’Ambrosio normally works both with a personal trainer and coach besides her school coaches, and has devoted so many hours in the last couple of years to taking advantage of any, and all, equipment and exercises she can to push herself.
Now, she finds herself racing around her home’s back yard, doing sled pulls up a small hill and using her basement’s stairs for exercises. She had some fitness equipment at home, but has ordered more. She started taking track more seriously toward the end of her sophomore outdoor season, and said she can’t let this lost season cause her to lose the gains she’s made.
“I want to be the best I can be, and be the best version of myself,” D’Ambrosio said.
That path was supposed to include one last starring high school season.
“So it’s definitely upsetting to not be able to see what times exactly I’d be running this year,” D’Ambrosio said. “I’m going into college next [school] year, and I don’t know exactly where I’m at — but I know I’m keeping in shape.”
At the moment, all Section II games, matches and meets are postponed until at least the end of the month. Starting up competition in May hasn’t been ruled out, but seems unlikely. Like her fellow spring athletes, D’Ambrosio is keeping hope alive that there could be a championship to chase after this season.
“If it has to be next year,” D’Ambrosio said, “it has to be next year.”