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Mustangs eagerly return to workout mode

WEST ORANGE – For the West Orange-Stark Mustangs and the coaching staff, everyone was “giddy” with excitement Monday as they were able to work out on campus for the first time this summer after the University Interscholastic League allowed schools across the state to start strength and conditioning and drills for the first time since the coronavirus interrupted everything in mid-March.

It was a tough pill to swallow, but now the Mustangs can slowly work their way back into their work habits as they look to push and lift their way to a possible 11th straight district title, a 10th straight trip to at least the Class 4A Region III finals and possibly beyond.

The Mustangs can now concentrate on their goals and look to get into excellent shape after they missed so much time together during the traditional spring offseason.

They were definitely practicing social distancing and were wearing masks in the weight room and on the field as Athletic Director Cornel Thompson and the entire coaching staff were preaching safety Monday morning. They worked out close to an hour in the weight room and almost an hour on the field.

The UIL put forth a slew of rules that school districts must abide by and some of the other key rules include no clothing or towels may be laundered on site or shared during workouts and there can be no shared water or food. Athletes may be placed in working groups no larger than 15 total students. Each working group should maintain appropriate distance from other working groups.

For the WO-S coaching staff, they were eager to meet the challenge, and that includes all of the sanitation that has to take place as different groups come in an out of the facilities.

“We’re doing whatever it takes to make sure the kids stay healthy, that’s top priority,” said Thompson. “We’re taking every precautionary measure possible and the kids are responding. We’ve been preparing for this ever since the UIL gave the green light a couple weeks ago. It’s just great to see all the kids back and together and they have a little more normalcy.”

The coaching staff was proud to see the positive numbers that showed up in the first group early Monday morning.

The “Blue workout group”, which consists of older players that will make up a lot of the varsity, will be together from 8 a.m.-10 a.m. each day while the “Silver workout group”, featuring a lot of the younger Mustangs, will attend each day from 10 a.m.-noon.

“We’re very excited about the turnout we had with the older group this morning,” said Thompson. “We had a list of 45 of them and 42 of them attended. For the most part, most of them have kept themselves in pretty good shape. We were a young team last year and we have a lot of nice experience back. They have that under their belts and they know what it’s all about. They are just so happy to be back.”

It’s going to take a week or so to get everything in order and develop some consistency with all of the new rules and regulations on tap.

“We just want to make sure everyone is on the same page and all of the guidelines are met,” said Thompson. “The greatest fear for all of us is a possible relapse of the virus and it is all about keeping everyone safe. It’s all about working things back in slowly and not over doing it in this heat too. It’s just great to be back and see the kids together again.”