MAHOPAC, N.Y. – Mahopac High School’s boys cross country team is not letting the coronavirus stop its preparations for the upcoming season, which will look slightly different this year.

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted interscholastic sports statewide, cross country included. However, the non-contact sport lends itself more naturally to physical distancing than others. Though some sports, like football and volleyball, have been postponed until the spring, cross country will begin with practices on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Practices will not be too difficult, said Coach Adam Fetzer, but most invitationals have been canceled this year due to the large number of teams that normally attend. Some of the races that the team usually go to can have hundreds of runners lining up at the starting line for a single race, but that will no longer be the case. Most of the races will now be dual meets, which limits the number of runners drastically. But Fetzer said there is still an upside to this whole situation.

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“While the competition may be different than in previous years, I believe the most important thing is that the kids are able to get out there and run,” Fetzer said.

The coach said he has high hopes for this fall season.

“We return seven of our top 10 runners from last year, and I know that those returners have been working hard to improve while we have been in quarantine,” Fetzer said.

The Indians graduated their top two runners in Matthew McMahon and Tommy O’Brien. Though they will be difficult to replace, Fetzer said, “They helped us create a culture of hard work that helped foster the development of our current crop of senior runners.”

He pointed to three senior runners who he hopes are ready to step into the spotlight and take the reins: Max Semegran, James Kumrow, and James Russo.

The coronavirus has prevented Coach Fetzer from seeing his team during the off season. Instead of running with the team on the bike path, he now has to sit on the sidelines until he is given the go-ahead by the state. Many of the team’s members also would have attended a week-long camp in August, which was canceled.