There is no doubt that the fall athletic season was unlike any other in St. Stephen’s history. Coaches and athletes began virtual training in August, abiding strictly to the school’s safety precautions. Each month of the season, training evolved from virtual settings to small cohort groups to full-team practices. Seasons culminated with a handful of local competitions.
In spite of the challenges athletes faced this season, Athletic Director Jon McCain was proud of the way it turned out. “The coaches and players kept a fantastic attitude during a difficult season,” he said. “The chance to watch fall athletes compete warmed my heart. The athletic department, as a whole, is incredibly grateful for the dedication displayed by our community of coaches and athletes.”
Director of Sports Medicine Kathy Rainey collaborated with the school’s Medical Advisory Committee and Health Services Team to execute new safety procedures with the help of Assistant Athletic Trainer Liam Forestein. The successful seasons were, in large part, due to clear safety expectations and protocols established by our Sports Medicine professionals.
Rainey noticed a difference in how the community approached athletics this fall. “This year, more than any other, athletes showed all of us the importance of exercise and participation in group activities — not just for physical health, but also for mental well-being,” she said. “I was constantly amazed at our athletes’ ability to adapt to safety standards. They have shown amazing resilience and joy in being part of the greater community.”
Caving and Canoeing athletes faced a different season, but did so with positive attitudes and a willingness to learn. Director of Outdoor Education Charlton Perry was impressed with students’ ability to hone their rappelling skills on the campus ropes tower. A typical season for Devil’s Canyon Wilderness Program participants and Coach Keenan MacDonald ‘10 involves weekend trips in the hill country or even neighboring states for adventure activities. Of course, a modified schedule to ensure safety required more local adventure and included an outing at the Barton Creek Greenbelt, rappelling at Urban Assault.
Perry is particularly proud of his students this term. “Despite not having the reward of exploring caves and paddling rivers, participants were enthusiastic and engaged,” he said. “They learned the important lesson that camaraderie is as important as activity.”
Cross Country competed in one dual against St. Andrew’s and one meet at Marble Falls, giving strong showings in both races. Coaches Ben Roberts and Alisa Vereshchagin led the team through dedicated training routines and supported a large senior class of runners. Spartans kicked off the season with virtual training in August and graduated to small groups before running as a team for the last four weeks of the season.
Coach Roberts had nothing but praise for how his team handled adversity this fall. “Like all of 2020,” he said, “this season was unique. But, as runners are wont to do, we took it in stride.” In addition to the continued progress of his most advanced runners, Roberts also commented on newer team members’ commitment. “I'm most proud of our younger athletes for stepping into leadership roles when they were presented with the opportunities.”
Field Hockey athletes began the fall with a challenging virtual training program, using the running app Strava and online hockey skills platform, Vital Hockey, to sustain high fitness levels and build on their technical skills. After a few weeks of practicing in small cohort groups, the squad was able to separate into JV and Varsity teams to train together. Coaches Chelsea Richards, Louise Brazitis ‘07, Sallie Bentley, Elizabeth Sturley ‘16, and Sam Night challenged their squad early, and the team rose to the occasion.
“Competing against yourself and your teammates on a daily basis can be a grind,” said Richards. “Our squad found a way to bring an intensity to practices without losing perspective, and it showed in our game results.” The Spartan Varsity team went undefeated in their matches, scoring more than 15 goals in three games against St. Mary’s Hall and St. Andrew’s.
The Saints Football team remained as dedicated as ever, with our Spartans joining forces with St. Andrew’s, once again, to create a combined program. Head Coach Taylor Stewart managed to blend the two schools into a unified team despite the challenges of two campuses and two communities, in addition to the global pandemic.
Assistant Athletic Director Chris Breckwoldt ‘86 said that despite the scheduling difficulties of this fall, the squad was celebrated in an intrasquad competition on Thursday, Nov. 12. “The Saints split to play a Purple vs. White game,” Breckwoldt said. “It was a spirited evening that included a purple team victory, a senior celebration and sense of hope for a more normal, competitive season next fall.”
Boys Volleyball thrived this fall under new Head Coach Lindsay Rosenthal, who was assisted by Coaches Taylor Nutterfield and Devon George. More than 35 athletes began their training on outdoor sand or grass courts and ended the season in the gyms. The varsity squad was dominated by a strong senior class of athletes. Their enthusiasm for the sport and their support for one another were contagious.
Coach Rosenthal was impressed with the dedication of the experienced players and the coachability of the younger athletes. “They stuck with it,” she said, “and that’s something to be really proud of this season.” As for the varsity squad, Rosenthal noted that “everyone on the team played an important role on the court. Whether they brought hustle, energy, consistency, clutch plays or emotional leadership, each person contributed to our team’s success.”
Girls Volleyball began similarly to the boys’ season — outside on grass and sand courts — shifting inside to the gym for the final month of training and matches. Coach Allison Squires led the girls’ program with the help of Coaches Madalena Almanza ‘16, Tonya Whybrew and Shara Ward.
Coach Squires said the girls’ team rolled with the punches this year, and the leadership from the more experienced students was evident in their attitude and dedication to the program. “This team is a wonderful group of girls who were incredibly positive, dedicated and hard-working despite the season not looking as expected,” Squires said. Most importantly, she noted that “the squad welcomed new students in as part of the Spartan family — and their support for each other during this tough, isolating time was inspiring.”
As the fall season wraps up, the winter season is well underway! Basketball, soccer and swimming athletes have begun training, and cheerleading and mountain biking athletes will start after the Thanksgiving holiday.
— Chelsea Richards, Sports Information Director