ARMSTRONG — Boys and girls athletes at Armstrong Township High School have been getting back in shape in recent weeks, prepping for the seasons they hope will happen.
Girls basketball players have been working out in the mornings, and boys basketball players in the afternoons.
“We’ve had about two-thirds of the girls showing up so far,” girls coach Nick Hipsher said. “We’ve have around 11, and we’re expecting around 17 this year.”
Workouts have lasted 45-50 minutes. Coaches have been allowed in the weight room. The athletes have also done box jumps and speed ladders for agility in addition to weight training.
Armstrong finished 4-22 last season with a young team. The Trojans graduated just three seniors, “so we have 15 of our 18 coming back,” Hipsher said. “I think we should see a big improvement this year. We were playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores.”
First-year boys basketball coach Wade Rogers said the boys players have been working out in the afternoons with 30 minutes of agility drills and 30 minutes of weight lifting.
“We’ve had a good turnout of 16 to 17 show up,” Rogers said.
Due to social distancing restrictions, they show up in three groups from noon to 1 p.m., 1 to 2 p.m. and 2 to 3 p.m.
“I have been really pleased” with the progress, Rogers said, noting the players had been doing a great deal of weight lifting during the winter prior to the COVID-19 quarantine.
“We were really making big strides,” he said. “You can tell they have definitely lost muscle, but it’s easy for them to get it back. You can kind of see they’re realizing they’re gaining the muscle back rather quickly.
“Now that I’m able to see them again, they can get back to their stretches and their diet. They were (starting) to get that quarantine body. Their cardio was running to the fridge and back.”
Rogers said while it was difficult for the players to be out of action during the layoff, it was difficult for him as well.
“I’m excited to where we can actually do some basketball stuff,” he said. “I’ve been pretty frustrated with it. I have to remind myself everybody is in the same boat. We have to go with what the governor and the state say we can do. I know the kids are wondering whether we will have a season.”
Cross country coach Darren Loschen said preparing his runners is an easier job in the beginning.
“All I’ve told them is to just find a time to run three miles,” Loschen said.
“My kids, it’s basically through P.E. in the fall when we run. We usually have five to seven boys and only a few girls.”
Loschen said most of the cross country runners are three-sport athletes.
Armstrong co-ops with Hoopeston in football.
Football assistant coach Nathan Gayheart said five Armstrong players have been working out consistently, and he hopes to have “seven or eight” ultimately as part of the 40-man Hoopeston squad.
Workouts have taken place twice a week — 90-minute sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He said he had hoped the team could move to Phase 2 training, which would have allowed workouts three days a week, but the Illinois Department of Health didn’t approve it, so the twice-a-week workouts continue for now.
Like the basketball players, workouts have consisted of weight lifting, agility drills, conditioning and one football-related skill per session.
Hoopeston finished 0-9 last season with a young team, including some freshmen playing varsity. Gayheart said it has been traditionally difficult for Hoopeston to keep its senior athletes out for the sport. They drop out because there hasn’t been much success in the program.
He said Armstrong has several good athletes who will contribute. The team also has a move-in from a suburban Chicago private school.
Volleyball coach Caroline Franzen did not return phone calls to talk about her team.