The Stony Brook University men’s cross country team during practice. Athletes from all fall sports are now adjusting to the new normal. SARA RUBERG/STATESMAN FILE

When the spring 2020 semester was unceremoniously interrupted by campus moving online, the Stony Brook community looked toward the future — students wondered when they would be able to return to campus, professors worried about making all their curricula virtual and athletes wondered when they would be able to perform again. 

Now, with the fall 2020 semester beginning in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, athletes from all fall sports are adjusting to a new normal. With the postponement of the fall season, Zoom meetings and new workout routines, these athletes are forging ahead despite the lack of a destination in sight. For many athletes, having the right mindset, staying positive and being supported by leaders and teammates are the keys to success. 

Back in July, the America East Conference decided that all fall sports would be postponed “for the duration of the first semester,” without announcing an exact return date. While teams are still able to still train and work out, there are no games or events to train for. 

Senior Ryan Dearie, a member of the Stony Brook cross country team, noted the strangeness of this environment.

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“With no races to prepare for, we can do different kinds of workouts at different times of the training cycle,” he said. “In that way, it’s a lot different too.”

After recovering from an injury in May, Dearie trained on his own during quarantine to prepare for the new season. What helped him then is the same thing that is helping him now — his teammates.

“I was just thinking about trying to be in the best shape I could for my team,” Dearie said. 

The importance of teammates and camaraderie is a common theme among fall sports, with athletes finding solace and comfort with those in similar positions as them. They can relate to each other and share their similar experiences. 

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“I expected it to be kind of difficult, but the team makes it so much easier,” freshman forward Makenna Robinson said. Robinson is one of the new recruits to the women’s soccer team. Although her mandatory two-week quarantine upon arrival to campus made it harder to adjust, it didn’t bother her for long.

“Honestly, it’s been a fun experience,” she said, referring to her time on campus. 

For other athletes, the unknowns that have come along with the pandemic have affected their psyches. The uncertainty can be daunting but also motivating. 

Senior forward Fanny Götesson, also on the women’s soccer team, felt the pressure of the pandemic over the summer and still feels it now. Since she was in Sweden during the summer, she was unsure whether she would return to Stony Brook.

“Are we gonna be able to go back to school at all?” she said. “Will I even get into the country because I’m international?”  

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Götesson arrived in the U.S. safely, and like the rest of her teammates, was quarantined upon arrival. Even though she is glad to be back training with her team, there is still another concern sitting at the back of her mind.

“I think the hardest part is not knowing if we’re actually going to have a season in the spring either,” Götesson said. 

However, that same uneasiness manifests itself in the opposite direction for freshman setter Torri Henry on the volleyball team. Henry has stayed motivated for this semester by preparing for anything that might arise in an uncertain future.

“Honestly, I think it might be the unknown because you just never know,” she said. “We could’ve been playing right now so we just always have to stay prepared.” 

In the short-term, however, the postponement can have some unintended benefits. Sophomore Lindsey Dodenhoff, a member of the cross country team, thinks that this extra time can be a good thing, especially for the incoming freshmen who are getting their first taste of college life. 

“In a way, it kinda is like a blessing in disguise,” Dodenhoff said. “It takes a little while to get used to college and you have a little bit of time to get used to it before we do get to compete.” 

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As important as teammates and time to prepare are, it’s the coaches and other de facto leaders who have guided athletes through these bizarre times. Their leadership, dedication and guidance have all helped others make the transition to this new way of life. Junior outside hitter Hailey Barden, one of the few upperclassmen on the volleyball team, praised the coaching staff.

“I’m really confident in our coaches because they just really care about us,” Barden said. She credited the summer quarantine for giving her time to reflect and improve her confidence in herself.

“I really found out how to take care of myself mentally,” Barden said. “I feel good now because I feel like I found myself.” 

Leadership is not just found in coaches, however. On the football team, it is found in the seniors and veterans who know the ins-and-outs of their program, their training and their university. Redshirt-senior defensive back TJ Morrison expressed his view on the situation.

“I feel like as a unit we’re pretty much focused on like, the day-by-day to stay healthy,” Morrison said. “Make sure you’re doing the right things, working hard and taking those steps to be where you want to be when you finally get it.”

While these athletes play a wide range of sports, the common threads of team unity, good mindsets and positivity have been unanimously shared among those interviewed by The Statesman. Despite the difficult situation and the postponement of their seasons, these athletes are making adjustments to adapt to this new way of life. 

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