How the 2020 fall sports seasons were affected by Covid-19: Cross Country and Tennis


Photo Credit: Stacie Gallo

After an arduous meet with skilled competition, the varsity cross country girls team pose for a quick picture with their medals after they earn the title of League Champions.

by Michael Taromina, Sports Beat Manager

The upbringing of COVID-19 throughout the year 2020 has no doubt caused many adjustments and alterations to be made to certain entities, but one distinguished change that was brought about was the high school fall sports season. Within the previous summer season, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that high school fall sports could commence under certain rules and regulations to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. Different sports called for different procedures, but overall, every coach and athlete found themselves to adapt to a new sense of reality, at least for this season. According to the fall coaches of Glen Rock High School, all sports endured many challenges and obstacles throughout the season, but it didn’t stop most of them from achieving many of their pre-season goals. Here are two sports: Cross Country and Tennis, and their stories on how Covid-19 positively and negatively affected their seasons.

Cross Country

A sport that certainly did not have difficulty with maintaining acts of social distancing, partly because the premise of the sport to stay as far apart as possible from each other, is cross country. According to state officials, any running sport, which includes cross country, will not be as hard to progress as high school sports, and the modifications made to the sport will be slim. With that said, cross country athletes still had to follow their fair share of restrictions, such as wearing masks before practice and after practice, not sharing water or food with each other, and maintaining some distance from each other when workout out, cooling down, or warming up. 

It was easy because the kids knew that they had to follow the rules in order to participate. They wanted to be running with their team and competing,” said head girls coach Stacie Gallo.

For the first time, in a long time, the freshman boy and girls cross country went a whole season undefeated. (Photo Credit: Stacie Gallo)

During August, cross country athletes met for optional summer conditioning workouts. They had to, like all sports, sign in when they arrived, and have their temperature taken. Summe

r conditioning was a lot more strict and stringent for cross country runners, as their practice times were slightly limited and they couldn’t leave campus to run. However, this time led to some trial and error in preparation for the beginning of the competitional season.

“We tried out some new techniques that proved to be effective. Something that stuck from the summer was splitting the boys and the girls during warmups and generally, cool downs, which is not the norm,” according to head boys coach, Anthony Judilla, “We really just tried to invoke some sense of normalcy while also being safe.”

Arguably the most drastic change that the cross country team had to endure was competitions. The cross country schedule was different from the start in a sense that there were fewer meets and all meets were invitational only and they all took place on Saturday. Usually there are hundreds of athletes crammed on the line and strung throughout the course; this year, there were smaller, more intimate “pods” where athletes raced against far fewer runners than they were normally used to. Unfortunately, spectators were prohibited by Milesplit which was a huge disappointment to many runners and parents. Additionally, there were no county meets; the state only ran a state sectional meet. 

Along with competitions being shifted and fluctuated, the team also had to cancel many annual enjoyable occasions due to COVID-19.

Though it ended up being a tough season for the varsity boys team. they managed to preserve and ultimately, broke many records and shattered many windows.

Judilla said, “Coach Gallo facilitates lots of the team bonding and side activities like pasta dinners, breakfasts, spike nights, end of season dinners. These were all events we couldn’t hold this year due to covid and indoor/outdoor capacity restrictions.” 

Fortunately, the team did not suffer any major turbulence when it came to contracting COVID-19. The athlete’s remained healthy and fit throughout the season; but there was the perpetual burden of runners and coaches needing to quarantine if they came into contact with anyone throughout the course of the season which made for some difficulty.

“Shoutout to Gallo for coaching the entire team when I was stuck in a 14 day quarantine,” said Judilla.

In other news, Covid-19 certainly did not stop the cross country team from racking up a series of achievements and accomplishments in the 2020 season. For the girls team: the varsity were league champs and the freshman team went undefeated and the JV team was also undefeated.

For the boys team: the freshman won almost every race they entered as a team and the varsity team placed 3rd in the league. Aidan Carroll became North 1 Group 2 State Sectional Champion.

“It was a strange season, but I’m glad the kids had an opportunity to compete and be part of the team,” Gallo said.


A team that certainly did not let Covid-19 stop them from keeping their annual success rate was the Girls Tennis team. With the leadership of coach Bonnie Zimmermann, the varsity team was able to go undefeated in their modified league at all positions throughout the entire season and make it to finals. On the Junior Varsity side, they were able to keep everyone who tried out and compete collectively in six matches. Still, with all these accomplishments came many drawbacks.

The tennis team, like every other team was subjected to the safety protocols that all sports teams had to endure, such as daily COVID check ins, wearing face masks, utilizing hand sanitizer, and staying 6 feet apart. They also didn’t have the same type of introductions at matches or at the end (no shaking hands) and stayed far apart from the opponents in changeovers. 

“Initially it was quite a switch, but once we got into the habit it became easier,” said Zimmermann. “We did our best and the team was very compliant.”

With a positive mindset and attitude that the coaches projected onto the team, most of the athletes were able to stay healthy and fit, as well as determined and devoted to have a great season, despite the challenges. 

Junior Varsity Coach, Kailyn Hess said, “Throughout the season, I tried my best to make practices as fun as possible. Some of the girls were fully remote, so practice was the most socialization that they were getting outside of their families. We played a lot of games, played music and I took suggestions from the girls as to what they wanted to do,”.

With about every sport, Covid-19 caused an abrupt change in the tennis team’s schedule this year. The NJSIAA had shortened the season and limited the schools the team played and the number of matches permitted. Both JV and Varsity teams were disappointed because they couldn’t play many non-league matches, but nevertheless, they adjusted. Since tennis doesn’t draw many crowds to begin with, the team did not need to adjust their limits on spectators as critically as other sports did.

Zimmermann said, “We felt luckier than most programs, because we had in-school classes and that helped keep us more connected each day. We couldn’t focus on what we couldn’t do, we decided to focus on what we could do and make lemonade out of lemons.”

The Junior Varsity team especially suffered an alteration in their season’s schedule as the number of matches they were supposed to have went from 30 to 9. During the season, numerous matches were rained out or canceled due to the other school closing down due to Covid cases. 

“The girls did not get nearly as much playing time as they usually would, but I did my best to get everyone in to play as much as possible,” Hess said.

With all the sudden changes that the athletes had to endure, the team made sure to assert many aspects of normalcy to keep the players happy. An popular event that transpired this season was senior day; the infamous “color war” practice and the team stayed in touch with creating the tennis ball decorations for each player.

Along with festivities of the season being intact, the team also created many memorable milestones throughout the season that deserved recognition and celebration as well. The varsity team had a great match versus Pascack Hills and won 3-2. They also had first team all-league honors for Allie Eisenberg and Puja Parikh for singles and Matea Damevski and Lizzy Vreedeburgh for doubles.

“I couldn’t be more proud of how the team handled this season. The captains did a great job keeping the team together and in good spirits. The team knew that things would be different, but the positive energy and attitude each player brought each day made it something I looked forward to every day. This is a very wonderful group of people and I considered myself very grateful that I got to spend time with them and we had a successful experience through it all. Every day was a gift to be out on the courts and we made the best out of it,” said Zimmermann.