Jason Retz

From left, Jillian Plotner, Erice Poe, Jason Retz and Hannah Rajlich earlier this month. Plotner, Poe and Rajlich are all 2020 St. Joseph-Ogden graduates and were key cross-country runners last season for the Spartans’ program, which Retz coaches.

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How have you felt about the way strength and conditioning events have gone so far?

We’ve only been together one time, simply for the reason that (coordinating) our meet times with people’s work schedules is kind of tough. Because we’re limited to the people who are in groups together, we tried to pick the best day where we could get as many people together as possible based on the kids and what they’re doing. I like to not have kids go by themselves as much as possible, and if I know there’s only one or two kids in a group, that kind of defeats the purpose of us meeting together in the first place. ... It’s gone pretty well. We put a schedule out for the kids way in advance. When we show up, there’s not a lot of instruction necessarily from me. It’s just a good, organized way to make sure we’re following the guidelines and getting out to be able to see each other and get something accomplished.

What is team morale like at this point, with the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing?

It was good. I made a TikTok with both groups. They dragged me in. Just the excitement of getting together and being able to see them smile — being on Zoom is one thing, but face-to-face interaction is so much better. They were doing some core exercises or something, and I made a suggestion to one of them, and just jokingly he said, “Well why didn’t you make that suggestion the other day?” just because we couldn’t be there.

So getting on TikTok wasn’t your idea?

We have trophy reunions, and we just had our 2014 trophy reunion in November or December. Those girls convinced me to do a TikTok with them. So the team now is trying to convince me to do more with them. I’m not really on that whole boat, but if it made them happy, it made them smile, I was willing to do it, especially given the circumstances we’ve had.

You recently posted on Twitter a photo featuring you and your Class of 2020 distance runners. Can you explain the story behind that?

We typically end the year with team meals and stuff like that, and given the circumstances we weren’t able to do those things. And so I called our graduates and I just had them over to our house, cooked them dinner. Eric Poe’s leaving for the Naval Academy sooner rather than later, and he’s currently on strict quarantine. Sunday was the last day he could be around anyone before he leaves. So we did it sooner maybe than some may, but those three (Poe, Hannah Rajlich and Jillian Plotner) have contributed so much and I didn’t want to do something without Eric. He’s just too important to our program. So they came over to my house and had dinner with my family, because they are part of my family.

Does this time of year feel any different in 2020 than it has in the past?

A little bit of both. I think that on one regard we have quite a few upperclassmen, so I’ve had to do less because we have some pretty good leadership to help get us through it. But then I’m currently driving kids in the driver’s ed car for several hours during the day, and I’m not typically doing that right now because we’re not trying to catch up. Part of my day is consumed doing that, and it’s different to me.I think the kids, we don’t get to do some of the things (we normally would). We didn’t have team camp. We normally go to Illinois College and stay for three days, and we didn’t have an opportunity to do that. We can’t play games or activities when they get done (with practice) because that’s sharing equipment. We can’t play catch with the Frisbee. They joked that they’d bring spray bottles and spray it in midair and try to wipe it down before they caught it, but obviously that’s not happening.

What are your expectations for the 2020 season?

It’s really been tough to judge, not being face to face with some of them. The easiest way to say it is, in different families they’re dealing with different situations. Each one kind of brings their own situation to the (team) situation, in simple words. Some of them were able to get out the door and run. Some of them, their parents didn’t want them outside for several weeks. It really just depends where they were, and mentally you try to bring that back together. They’re all in different places.Some of them are ready to train for a state meet. Some of them just enjoy being around each other. And neither one is wrong. They’re both OK to be that way, and everybody’s going to come along at their own pace. That’s one of the challenges that we’re facing is just that people are at different places. Everybody’s going to take their own time to recover from this thing.

Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at clikas@news-gazette.com, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).