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Lynx softball begins the ‘new normal’ with positive results

WCHS opens 2020 season ranked No. 14 in Class 4A

WEBSTER CITY — In some ways, it was a typical June morning at the Webster City softball field on Monday.

Players were scattered around the diamond for drill work on the opening day of practice for the upcoming season, and everyone in attendance was happy to be together once again.

It was far from normal, however. Rather than working as one group, the Lynx players were split into pods of between five and 10 and worked with just one of the team’s four coaches throughout the session. During water breaks, players retreated to their own bags — carefully placed at least six feet apart — for a drink and to apply hand sanitizer.

Welcome to the new normal.

“It’s like I told the girls, this doesn’t seem normal, but this is our normal now,” WCHS head coach Jess Howard said of the various precautions put in place to combat any potential spread of the coronavirus. “When we’re a week into this, they’re not going to think anything about using hand sanitizer. It’s just going to be part of things.”

Just getting to this point — practice, followed by games on June 15 — is a victory. The coronavirus pandemic shut schools in mid-March and forced the cancellation of the spring sports season in late April. Baseball and softball practices were scheduled to begin in early May, but that date too went by the wayside courtesy of COVID-19.

On May 20, Governor Kim Reynolds gave the OK for summer sports, and the state’s two governing bodies — the Iowa High School Athletic Association and Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union — announced later that day that practices would begin on June 1.

In preparation for the season, Howard says the softball program bought plastic totes for each of the players. They’re to be used to store gloves, hats, helmets, water bottles, and anything else each player needs at practices and games. She also said that each player will have her own helmet to use throughout the season.

“We won’t have any sharing of helmets this season,” Howard said. “With the totes, I was nervous about the girls breaking into bad habits in the dugout when the games start where they just start throwing their stuff on the ground. Now they’ll put their stuff in their tote.”

Howard said the first day was successful. Social distancing was strictly in place, but there were plenty of smiles too.

“I had a lot of them asking me if we could practice at 12:01 (a.m.) because they’re so excited,” she said. “They know this is going to be an uphill battle, but we’re ready to make sure we’re doing what we can to stay healthy and have a full season.

“It was a positive first step. I think the girls probably felt like it was a normal practice.”

Coming off a 21-7 season and runner-up North Central Conference finish in 2019, WCHS has high hopes for the upcoming shortened campaign. The Lynx have been noticed on the statewide stage too; they’re ranked No. 14 (Class 4A) in the initial IGHSAU rankings, which were released yesterday morning as practice was happening.

“We’ve got a really good nucleus of girls and they’ve been working hard,” Howard said. “We’re hoping to make the most of the opportunity we’ve been given.”

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