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The pandemic has largely meant an end to local sports; now Cleveland High is taking some steps back

DAVID F. ASHTON - Even on their day off, and in the rain, CHS Track athletes - senior Nate Bone, junior Aidan Mackie, sophomore Tucker Swinth, and junior Toby Finn - headed out for a run at the Cleveland High Warriors Stadium. Although Cleveland High School (CHS) students haven't been in the classroom for a year, the school's athletics program has continued.

That's what CHS Athletic Director Kellie Cook told THE BEE in a recent interview. And, she said, keeping these sports programs going hasn't been simple.

"It took about two months of submitting plans back and forth with the [Portland Public School (PPS)] district office to bring sports back to our students; and, once plans were approved, the athletic directors in the district reached out to our coaches to see who was interested in offering programming."

Thus, their "pre-season" training started for PPS back in October, and ended as February began.

Cook told us that several conditions that had to be met:

· All activities had to take place at the Cleveland High Warriors Stadium

· Masking was mandatory for students, coaches and support personnel

· Activities had to be designed to allow physical distancing between students and coaches

· Students were to be assigned to a pod of 25 each week.

"Our initial offerings included Track, Football, Wrestling, Soccer, and Cross Country," Cook explained. "After a month or so of beautiful weather, a few more coaches decided to join us, and we were able to add Girls' Basketball, Lacrosse, and Softball.

"The driving force, behind bringing sports back, was helping to address our students' social and emotional needs," Cook said. "We set out to create programming and structure that was well-thought-out and which put student and coach safety at the forefront -- and safety has been our #1 concern from the very beginning."

Thus, the CHS stadium became a place for students to be active, see their friends, meet their teachers and coaches in real life, and make new connections with other students. "We found it to be particularly helpful with our freshmen students, who started their high school journey entirely online!" commented Cook.

THE BEE asked what was the most important thing that students got from having the CHS athletic program continue, in this age of COVID-19? Cook replied, in a word, "Connection.

"I believe the most important thing that we have been able to offer is a human, in-person connection. Athletics have helped to restructure an additional area of support for our students," she remarked. "And, I am very proud of our coaches for the positive and safe space they have created at the stadium. "They have been the true heroes of our Season 1 sports programming."


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