Courtesy of Bridget Meretta
443 days ago, on March 6, 2020, WCHS students and community members packed into the gym and watched as the Girls Varsity Basketball team defeated Paint Branch High School to advance to the state semi-finals. That was the last time WCHS fans would be able to gather before the COVID-19 pandemic and related closures hit. Since then, sports have been cancelled, held virtually on Zoom, and then returned, but with only two spectators per player permitted.
However, a May 19 MCPS community athletics update delivered eagerly awaited news; face coverings will no longer be required at outdoor sporting events and capacity limits are no longer in effect. This ruling signified the true return of high school sports as stadiums full of cheering students were a hallmark of games pre-pandemic. The first games with the new guidelines in place were the boys and girls lacrosse teams playing against Wootton on Friday, May 21.
“Once I found out that people were allowed to go to games again I immediately decided to go to the girls lacrosse game at Wootton with my friends,” WCHS sophomore Avery Max said. “Before everything shut down we would go to football and basketball games together because it was a fun way to hang out and be part of the exciting energy at games. I am glad that we are finally able to do that again.”
One fun difference between WCHS games and professional ones is that the athletes on the field are student’s peers. Attending gives fans the chance to see siblings, friends and classmates doing what they love.
“Two of my best friends, Lexie and Anna, are on the lacrosse team and I haven’t been able to cheer for them because their allotted spectators have deservedly gone to their parents,” WCHS sophomore Dylan Rosen said. “Once the capacity rules were eliminated I went to the game and saw them play. Lexie scored so I was glad that I was allowed to come so I could celebrate with her.”
With no capacity limits, the stadium at Wootton for the girls lacrosse game looked pretty similar to pre-pandemic life. Parents chatting and catching up, an open concession stand and friends from opposing schools talking after a year of not seeing each other. With the afternoon temperature being over 90 degrees, it was a welcomed bonus for masks not to be mandated.
“The games were especially fun because of how normal it felt,” WCHS sophomore Danielle Faerberg said. “For so long we were isolated, it felt so nice to have a classic high school Friday night of being outside at a sports game with my friends. I saw people I hadn’t seen since before the pandemic and spent the night just hanging out. I had a lot of fun at both girls lacrosse games for the simple fact that I was allowed to go.”
Crowds being brought back into the stands is not just a great thing for the fans, but also the players.
“Our game against Wootton was way more crowded than any game we had previously had,” WCHS sophomore and boys JV goalie Brandon Gerber said. “Having people screaming in the stands brought a lot more energy to the game and upped the intensity. It makes our home team advantage really mean something because we get to have a crowd cheering for us. I am glad they lifted the restrictions because I think more fans means teams will play better.”
Gerber may be right because three of the four lacrosse teams won against Wootton on May 21 (Boys Varsity and Junior Varsity, girls Varsity). The next opportunity to watch a game is when the Bulldogs take on Whitman this Wednesday, June 2. Girls lacrosse is home at 5:30 (Junior Varsity) and 7 (Varsity) while the boys are away at 5:30 (Junior Varsity) and 7:15 (Varsity).
“Getting rid of capacity limits means bringing back fun stands and games,” Max said. “I can’t wait to go to more games this season because it gives me a taste of what a normal next year could be like.”