Given restrictions as a result of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, high school spring sports athletes throughout central Ohio have had to find creative ways to stay active the last three weeks.

It's been an especially tricky time for competitors like Gahanna Lincoln senior Lacey Stringer, whose best event in track and field is the shot put.

Last season, Stringer was a Division I regional qualifier in the 300-meter hurdles and finished third at state in the shot put with a personal-best throw of 43 feet, 1 3/4 inches.

"For me personally, since I can't really go to the schools because I am a thrower, what I do at home is a lot of drills, such as throwing drills or stands, glide stops, different things that help me that I'd do in a regular practice," Stringer said. "It's beneficial that I can do it in the comfort of my own home."

Stringer won the state indoor championship in the shot put March 7 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva and had a couple practices after that before the OHSAA announced March 13 that spring sports were indefinitely postponed because of the coronavirus.

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.

Gahanna's track and field program was to have opened its season April 1 at Hamilton Township.

"My team has been dealing with it OK, but the people that have (been taking) it hard is our seniors," Stringer said. "We're very sad over this because we really don't want our season to be canceled and we've worked very hard for this. We're working out and trying to prepare for these conditions."

Senior Ben Towler, who teamed with junior Donovan Hight and seniors Caleb Shovlin and Riley Jackson to win the Division I state indoor title in the boys 3,200 relay (8 minutes, 1.33 seconds), hasn't changed much of his preparation.

"Our coach (Shawn Johnston) gave us a great schedule of what runs to do daily and it's really been helping all of us to stay in shape and have a good practice plan for this long break," Towler said. "It's definitely been very hard not running with and not seeing my teammates every day, especially with this being my last sports season in high school, but I've been holding on to the hope that all of this will pass and that the track season will be back in a few weeks or months."

Johnston and girls track coach Roger Whittaker have focused extensively on helping athletes like Stringer, who recently committed to Ohio State, on the mental side of things during the shutdown.

"We've kept the message pretty simple during this time," Johnston said. "The last four years have always been the same message (to) control your response so we can get the best desired outcome, whether that's in competition, training, schools, family or personal lives. (We have had) virtual captains (meetings). (Last) week was a planned break due to it being our district's spring break. We have such a long indoor season that this year I strategically planned a week or two during the outdoor season to rest our bodies, so our meeting last week was about identifying what this event truly means, not only in terms of training and the season, but as a moment in our lives we'll never forget.

"In terms of training, we really only lose two weeks of planned training during these three weeks, so we addressed that by sending out workouts the athletes can do on their own during this time. After these three weeks, we will re-evaluate based on the information we get from the governor and the OHSAA."

Columbus Academy senior Mitch Priest missed 14 games for the boys basketball team this winter with a broken right arm before returning Feb. 28 for his team's second-round Division III district tournament win over Marion Pleasant.

Also a second baseman and pitcher for the Vikings' baseball team, Priest has been continuing his rehabilitation from the injury during the no-contact period for spring sports.

"Now that the school is closed, I'm having to do (rehabilitation) at home," Priest said. "I'm definitely making good progress, but I'm not there yet. (The season being canceled) is something that I've had to think about because it's pretty realistic at this point. It's actually really heart-breaking. I came into my senior year with the goal of being first-team all-league (in the MSL-Ohio Division) in basketball and baseball. ... My dad (Kenyon men's basketball coach Ken Priest) always says sports are a great teacher, a great reflection of life, and in life, things just don't go your way sometimes. That's been the case for me in 2020."

Gahanna senior Johnny Belli, who was a Division I state qualifier in boys swimming and diving, is hoping to return to action with the baseball team. A first baseman, he made special mention all-OCC-Ohio last season as the Lions went 19-8 and were a Division I district finalist.

"Usually I go for a run and then stretch out," Belli said. "Lately, I've been practicing jiu-jitsu with my brother for a decent workout. If the season does get canceled, it would be disappointing, but I'd try to focus on the things that can be controlled like possibly playing baseball and athletics in college."

Senior midfielder Julia Foresi of the Gahanna girls lacrosse team has been going on runs, riding her bike or running on a treadmill whenever possible to stay active. She had 54 goals and 14 assists last season as the Lions went 7-10.

"I always combine some cardio with some core, arm and leg strength to get the best, well-rounded workout I can without being able to go to the gym," Foresi said. "I do that daily, but I'm not involved in anything organized right now. When I'm stuck inside, I like to get the stick in my hand as much as I can and just do little things like getting more comfortable with switching hands and things of that nature. If I can manage to get outside, I try to fit in a wall-ball routine to keep coordination shape and still be in the flow of the season the best I can."

ThisWeek reporter Frank DiRenna contributed to this story.

julrey@thisweeknews.com

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