Alongside the fall comes cold nights, which makes for miserable running conditions for Senior and Winter Track team captain Spencer Schmid.

In a normal year, November would be a time for runners. The new normal has forced winter sports practices to be unofficial, meaning when Schmid returns to his starting point on the W&OD trail, there are no coaches to report back to. Regulations from both the county and Virginia High School League are forcing Winter athletes to get creative with practice.

For many athletes, social distancing requirements mean training in isolation. And while individual sports such as running lend themselves well to training alone, members of the Winter Track team just could not see the fun in that.

“Running by ourselves is boring,” Schmid said. “We all [know] each other and we all stayed safe [during the runs].”

The group began unofficial practices for the upcoming Winter season. They were not too different from normal practices, following the normal routine of warm-ups and drills. But, these practices took place with no coaches present due to liability concerns.

“If [our] coach were to hold [practice] , he would be responsible for all of our health,” Schmid said. “He sends us workouts to do by ourselves, but we run with a group without him.”

When heavy breathing occurs under a mask, particularly cloth masks, the inhalations cause the cloth to suction to the wearer’s nostrils for a brief second, hindering breathing. For a runner, wearing a mask during runs can be hazardous to their health. However, the group is not without their exercise-friendly solutions to their exposed mouths and noses.

“When we pass people on [the path], I go to the far left side to distance and I use my shirt to cover my mouth,” Schmid said. “[That way] I don’t get it from some random person on the trail.”

Schmid found a way to make practicing together possible, but runners are still concerned about the implications of a full season. Three year Winter Track veteran and Senior Adam Sarnovsky planned to participate in track for his final year. Now he has to reevaluate his plans.

“I’m actually not sure if I am doing Winter Track,” Sarnovsky said. “It’s usually indoors, and I’m not trying to catch Corona.”

The Virginia High School League (VHSL) said they are confident that each sport will have a 2020-2021 season, despite the virus and the limitations it brings. VHSL Executive Director Dr. Billy Haun said in a press conference in the summer that he is optimistic about the plan the league executive committee created for reopening.

“[The Executive Committee] has worked very hard reaching out to the people they represent,” Haun said. “We appreciate all the hard work that they have.”

The future of high school sports this year still remains unknown, as all plans that the VHSL have are subject to change. But for now, all Schmid and the Winter Track team can do is keep running in the cold autumn night, waiting for their season to start.