Fresh fall beginning
Although it was a week later than most years, the annual rite of passage came Monday, filling the gyms, courts and fields with teenagers eager to begin their sports' season.
On Monday morning and afternoon, the eight fall teams representing Baldwin High School and Baldwin Junior High School started their seasons. It was a highly anticipated day by many of the local participants.
"I am excited to be practicing again and being on the court," BHS senior volleyball player Ashley Hadl said. "I'm excited about having a good time my last year."
Of course, Hadl wasn't the only one to be excited about the opening days of practice. Her excitement was shared by many fellow Bulldogs, including sophomore Tony Weiss, the leading runner returning to the boys' cross-country team.
"I'm glad to be back out running with the team," Weiss said. "These first few weeks are tough, but once you get to the meets it's worth it. It's good to be running with the team again."
The cross-country teams joined the BHS football program in starting the week with two-a-days. They both practiced before and after school for the first couple of days.
Unlike most years, the weather has been great for the teams to practice outdoors. The football and cross-country teams have enjoyed the unseasonably cooler temperatures.
"It could be a lot worse," BHS senior football player Clad Kueffer said. "It's chilly in the mornings, but warm in the afternoons. It's been pretty nice so far."
Weiss agreed, saying the usual dreadful late August temperatures can make running miserable.
"The weather has been great," he said. "It is much easier and more comfortable to run in the cooler weather than the hot. It makes it more fun when it's not so miserably hot."
The BHS soccer and girls' tennis, along with the BJHS football teams, have also enjoyed the nice weather. It's been the talk of the practice facilities during the first week.
"The weather this year has been amazing," BHS senior tennis player Brianna Krysztof said. "The tennis courts are always about 10 degrees hotter, so it's nice to have a break from the heat."
While the weather has been the talk outside, other issues have made the BHS volleyball practices more enjoyable than previous years. Beginning her third year as head coach, Kelly Brown has changed some of her philosophies regarding early season practices.
BHS senior Olivia Catloth, one of only a trio of seniors on the team, has enjoyed the first few days of her final season.
"Practice has been really fun," Catloth said. "It's changed since last year and I'm excited to see how the season plays out. We have concentrated more on basics and fundamentals at practice and we don't do as much conditioning. It should help us down the road."
Her teammate, Hadl, also said the Bulldogs have focused on the fundamental skills of the game during the opening days.
"The first two days have been pretty fun," Hadl said. "We've been going over passing and setting so far in practice."
Like most teams, the volleyball squad has increased participation from last fall. A large freshman class has helped boost numbers for volleyball and girls' tennis.
"The first two days of practice have been a lot of fun," Krysztof said. "We have a nice group of freshmen coming up that I'm sure will have a great future in tennis."
The soccer and cross-country teams also have larger teams than they did a year ago. Although practice just started Monday, some of the Bulldogs are already looking forward to starting the games and meets.
Weiss is a good example of that. He is one of four Bulldogs that returns from the boys' team that finished state runner-up a year ago. A couple of additions to the team have him setting high goals.
"The first days have been fun," Weiss said. "I have enjoyed them and I think we will have a strong team this year. We have had a lot of guys out and everyone is working really hard so far."
While games and meets are still at least two weeks away, there are two teams that are looking forward to today's practice. The BHS and BJHS football teams begin practicing today in full pads.
"We are all pretty excited about Thursday," Kueffer said Tuesday. "We've been talking about it with each other. It will be fun to put on the pads and not just walk around with a helmet on."
Season previews on each of the teams will be coming in the next two issues of the Signal. Schedules for the BHS teams can be found online at www.highschoolsports.net.