The captains of the Football and Cross Country programs shared some insight into the current standing of their teams.
Matthew Shotwell is a redshirt senior dedicated to upholding the reputation of Cal Poly Football, even through the difficulties that the COVID-19 pandemic has presented. Shotwell is also a returning captain from last year’s team.
“I mean it’s obviously different. As a senior you expect it to be, you’ve worked your whole life to be a senior college football player, [you want to] go in and have a great season,” Shotwell said. “But with everything that’s happening we understand it has to get pushed.”
With the postponement of the season, Shotwell said it was inevitable that there would be changes to come.
“It just kind of changes things a little bit. We have to get used to those kinds of changes,” Shotwell said. “We have to do a lot of different things; we can’t go in the weight room, we don’t even have a locker room right now.”
The COVID-19 prevention precautions and strategies are also being taken very seriously by the team, Shotwell said.
“If a kid comes in with any kind of illness symptoms, they’re going to have to get quarantined, that house is going to get quarantined, anyone who they’ve contacted [is going to quarantine] until he gets tested,” Shotwell said.
Overall, Shotwell said he is encouraged by the opportunity of having a longer offseason, with football being planned to return in the spring.
“I think moving the season to spring was a good call by the Big Sky and the NCAA for us,” Shotwell said. “It just makes the most sense, and gives us the best option to be successful.”
Women’s Cross Country
“For me personally as an individual, I saw things shutting down and our season ending as an opportunity. I’ve felt really fit, and I’ve trained well,” Women’s Cross Country captain Sierra Brill said.
Brill has kept a positive point of view throughout this entire experience. Which, for the cross country team, began all the way back in Spring.
“It started in spring with track because spring sports got cancelled as well. Everybody got sent home before spring break. And that whole thing kind of took a toll on us as athletes as well,” Brill said.
With so much uncertainty stemming from COVID-19, Brill said it was hard for the team to get a clear idea about if they would have a fall season to participate in. Brill said that the team got biweekly updates, but eventually they realized they would not have a season.
“It’s hard because as athletes, we’re here to compete and represent our team and each other,” Brill said. “Losing that opportunity to compete in uniform or race together against other schools and represent our school is kind of devastating. Especially to those who are graduating or people who haven’t had a shot before.”
However, she said she also recognizes that moving the season was for good reason.
“I also understand that this is definitely for the best,” Brill said. “I don’t want to get sick, I don’t want to get other people sick, and throwing 100 athletes into one cross country race is definitely a high risk thing.”
The team found ways to ensure they keep in touch during quarantine, she said.
“We have weekly zoom meetings to connect up and see how each other are doing. We have accountability buddies where we check in with each other,” Brill said. “It’s nice to keep each other honest and see how we’re doing.”
Season or no season, Brill said she will improve her skills regardless.
“Personally I’ve tried to see the positive side of things. I enjoy the time to better myself and hone my skills,” Brill said. “I’ve taken it as more time to grow as an athlete because the more you run the better you get at the sport.”
Men’s Cross Country
“Stay fit.” That was the message from Men’s Cross Country captain Benjamin Holland.
The suspension of Big West fall sports sent shockwaves throughout Cal Poly athletics, and the Men’s Cross Country team was no exception, Holland said. When the idea of a season long suspension or postponement was first brought up, the guessing game for what would happen next began.
“Truthfully it was a lot of uncertainty surrounding everything,” Holland said. “People were speculating things were going to get shut down, other people [disagreed].”
During this time Holland said he was also focused on battling from a setback.
“I had broken my wrist in January,” Holland said “I was struggling to actually do workouts and be present for them, just due to the fact that I wasn’t actually allowed to do them.”
With COVID-19 restrictions in place, it is unrealistic to expect events where the entire team can be present, Holland said. This let him to give his team an outlet.
“I felt like it was important to try and make sure everyone stayed connected. Maybe every two to four weeks I’d try and organize a Zoom call,” Holland said.
The Cross Country team has at least one silver lining they can look forward to during this time, Holland said.
“Thankfully we have two sports, at least everyone on the cross country program, they’re all dual sport athletes; so we have Track and Cross Country,” Holland said.
Regardless of the COVID-19 factors that are affected the Cross Country team, the combination of the two sports alone requires a very demanding workout schedule, Holland said.
“I mean it’s a yearround commitment. Realistically I take four weeks off a year,” Holland said. “When I’m in the full swing of things and healthy. I take two weeks after the track season is over, and two weeks after the cross season is over.”
To maintain the fitness level you want, Holland said days off come few and far between.
“It’s six days a week of required practice, but I don’t know anyone that runs just six days a week, it’s basically a seven days a week [commitment],” Holland said.
This commitment to the sport makes this situation that much more unfortunate for the team, Holland said.
“I know everyone on the team… talking to my teammates and knowing the amount of work we had all put in. It was pretty devastating,” Holland said.
Holland said he has chosen to take an optimistic approach to the situation as a whole.
“Overall [it’s] disappointing, but hopefully it gives us time to get fit, stronger and ready for the challenges that are to come,” Holland said.
Every program will be adhering to county as well as university health and safety guidelines, and each team will have strategies on handling the postponement of the Fall 2020 season.
All students, including athletes, are expected to comply with the basic health requirements mandated by Cal Poly.