Groveport Madison baseball coach Chris McKee joked that one of his best players, Robby Morgan, "has a Rocky IV-style home gym" in his garage with weightlifting equipment and other implements to help the senior catcher and third baseman stay in shape amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
Morgan chuckled at the description, but the Central Michigan recruit acknowledged that he's had to get creative over the past few weeks during the state-mandated three-week shutdown of schools that ultimately forced the cancellation of the boys basketball, girls basketball, hockey and wrestling tournaments and brought spring sports to a halt before they began.
"I've built and made some structures that reference a gym," Morgan said, adding that he bought wood and made a makeshift squat rack and also affixed a rope to a beam with a C-clamp in order to do triceps pushdowns. "A lot of it is just gritty, get-to-it type stuff. You have to work with what you have. It's not like going to the gym with true equipment and facilities right there in front of you, but the mental aspect has helped me more than anything.
"I'm not going to let this epidemic kill my mental approach."
Spring athletes across the state have worked the past few weeks to keep themselves in shape both mentally and physically as they await word from the OHSAA on whether their seasons will be abbreviated or canceled entirely.
An initial statewide three-week closing of schools by Gov. Mike DeWine ends Friday, April 3. The OHSAA instituted a no-contact period during that time, although teammates can communicate and coaches are allowed to send their players suggested workouts. The earliest spring sports could begin under the initial ruling is April 11, following a five-day acclimation period.
Update: DeWine announced March 30 that schools will remain closed through May 1.
"I was looking forward to our team achieving 'our last firsts,'" said Groveport softball player Ally Maddy, a Fairmont State recruit whose team has won three consecutive OCC-Capital Division championships. "It's tough, but everything that's happening is far beyond our program. I've been able to stay busy. I have a warehouse job from 9 (a.m.) to 6 (p.m.), then I do some homework and hit when I can. Being busy helps."
Canal Winchester boys track and field runner Ian Lewis said he has treated the past few weeks like December and January when it came to training. Still, the junior, who runs about seven miles most days, said it was "disheartening" to work alone considering the Indians' season should have started March 28 with the Hammond Relays at Pickerington Central.
"I've been training on my own and treating everything like the season will happen eventually. Our (distance) coach (Ron Martin) sent us a daily schedule to follow," Lewis said. "There's still a glimmer of hope, but I'm unsure how long that is going to last. I know how much it hurts to have a season taken away because of injury and how that affects you going forward.
"To have a season stripped away would be terrible, especially for the seniors who have worked all their lives to get to this point. It's disheartening to say the least."
Indians girls runner Allena Klamorick credited accountability from her coaches, teammates and even her family with helping maintain a routine. Her mother, Michelle, is Canal Winchester's cross country coach and an assistant track and field coach and her younger sister, Marissa, runs for both teams.
The Indians also use the Strava GPS cycling and running app to monitor times.
"I've run with my sister and that's been very good. My mom helps keep us accountable as well to get us in the mood to run," Allena Klamorick said. "It's important to remember that everything happens for a reason. All this work now is only putting us in a better position for the future, whether that's this spring or in the fall."
Although Morgan dreads the possibility of not playing another game for the Cruisers, he said he has prepared himself for when or if the season is canceled.
"The term 'play like it's your last game' means so much more now," Morgan said. "This came out of nowhere. Now, I know when I do get to play baseball again, it'll mean so much more than it used to. It's a game and we can all be kids when we play it, but when it's gone, we'll all miss it."