Off-Campus Athletics Adapt to Covid Regulations


Caroline Look

Coach Brett Wikierak and some JV bowlers watch as one of their fellow bowlers takes his turn.

Paige Maki, Entertainment Editor

Due to COVID-19, teams that practice off-campus have experienced changes as they follow the safety protocols of both IHSA and their off-site practice locations.

North girls and boys bowling teams along with the joint North and East gymnastics team are managing to keep their practices relatively normal as they implement the necessary safety procedures. 

North girls and boys bowling teams continue to practice at St. Charles Bowl because they have in past years, but practices look a little different this season.

“So, when the bowlers get to the bowling alley, they have to show their green screens. Everybody is wearing a mask all the time, even when they’re bowling. When they’re competing and everything, the masks are always on. We do our best to socially distance and have the six feet between everybody. We have hand sanitizer available, and we have wipes out,” said Michelle Cook, boys bowling coach.

The bowling alley sanitizes between groups, but to be extra cautious, the teams make sure to sanitize everything themselves at the beginning of practice and continue to sanitize shared equipment, like the screen where they type their names.

While IHSA permits bowlers to remove their masks when it’s their turn to bowl, the North teams opt to keep them on at all times, and the bowlers practice social distancing.

“We definitely follow all of the rules of not just the bowling alley, but the state and the schools all together. We’re trying to follow the strict version of all the rules,” said Lindsay Madej, girls bowling coach.

Varsity bowler Molly Denz bowls during the March 3 meet against the Geneva Vikings at St. Charles Bowl. (Addie Grimm)

The gymnastics team follows similar guidelines to the bowling teams as they practice at St. Charles Gymnastics Academy.

“The girls have to wear their face coverings. They’re allowed to take it off when they’re on an event, and our girls are really good about it. When they’re waiting in line, they’re six feet apart. When they can get on the event, they usually just take off the mask and tuck it into their leotard. Obviously, we’re cleaning mats when we’re done. We have sprayers, so we’re wiping everything down,” said Amy Wojdelko, gymnastics coach.

St. Charles Gymnastics Academy’s safety protocols are consistent with the IHSA protocols, so the team is able to navigate the procedures relatively easily.

In addition to practices, bowling and gymnastics meets have experienced some alterations.

The bowling teams try to stay distanced from the other teams and will move in a counterclockwise circular path, so they don’t cross paths with other groups.

As senior varisty bowler Matt Anderson completes his turn, his teammates and coach, Coach Michelle Cook, eagerly look on to see how many pins he hits at the March 2 meet against Lake Park High School. (Caroline Look)

Virtual meets have also been a new addition this season as they allow the teams to be extra cautious when playing teams that may have come in contact with COVID-19.

“We will start a Zoom call, so that way you can kind of hear their cheers. There’s a lot of cheering at bowling, and so we can kind of hear and get that same atmosphere,” said Madej.

 For gymnastics, the meets have undergone a lot of changes to keep the teams safe.

“At the meets when we’re competing, we’ll compete in an event, and then you are responsible for wiping down all the mats and stuff. So, we’ll take a 10-minute break, wipe everything down, and then we just switch events. It’s different this year because usually girls are high-fiving each other or just interacting more with the other team. Now, it’s kind of like we’re just separate. At the end, you just kind of shout ‘good job!’ and don’t shake hands,” said Wojdelko.

As both the bowling teams and gymnastics teams practice, the alley and gym conduct business as usual, but due to the time of their practices, they usually beat the crowds.

Senior varisty bowler Ronnie Gorka stares down the pins at the March 2 meet against Lake Park High School. (Caroline Look)

“[St. Charles Bowl is] not at full capacity, but it doesn’t affect us because we go right after school and so the bowling alley isn’t terribly busy at that time of day. It really is mostly just us and maybe a couple families here and there bowling for fun,” said Madej. 

The gymnastics team shares a pretty similar experience to the bowling teams at their gym.

“We get to the gym pretty early. So we get to the gym before all the rec classes start,” said Jennifer Nickel, gymnast.

Despite all the safety protocols in place, the bowling teams and gymnastics team were identified by IHSA as low-risk sports, so they have been able to maintain some normalcy.

“It’s pretty much the same atmosphere. There haven’t really been that many changes since COVID. Since bowling is a low-risk sport, we are able to kind of just keep doing what we’re doing before,” said Molly Denz, girls bowler.