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Area collegiate athletes deal with their own unique pandemic challenges

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HARTINGTON — The questions do arise just a bit when considering the ins and outs of the COVID-19 pandemic and how the public has been educated on the do’s and don’ts and the things they might be able to do and should reconsider.

But one thing that was made painfully clear is that being outdoors was not nearly as dangerous as being within buildings and so that’s why this track season will be interesting to see when the time comes around.

One can bet that a pair of Hartington natives will be ready when the season starts. Wayne State College senior Sophie Noecker and

Wayne State College senior Sophie Noecker and University of South Dakota freshman Sara Reifenrath will be waiting in hopes of having a 2021 campaign.

Noecker, a Hartington-Newcastle grad, and Reifenrath of Cedar Catholic fame, will both have plenty more than a hometown in common.

Noecker is a multi-event competitor with a focus in sprints and is hoping she can wrap up her career on her own terms.

“Since canceling our season – I couldn’t believe it – and since it’s still going on now, it’s kind of maddening,” Noecker said. “You just deal with it. We are still practicing and trying to have meets. It’s definitely disappointing. Last year I was seeing some good results and then we got kicked out of school (because of the virus). I didn’t really get a chance to have an outdoor season and enter my senior year making progress. It really cut into my career as a whole.”

Noecker admits that she hasn’t done much different during the pandemic since there wasn’t much really to engage in. So, she decided to hone in on school since she knew there would be few options for entertainment last summer. “I hopped on that and got a lot of summer classes

“I hopped on that and got a lot of summer classes in,” Noecker said. “I was hoping to catch up on classes and get ready for a season this next spring and focus on track.

“But things don’t look good, so we’ll see. I try to stay in shape, but I don’t know.”

Noecker said this fall has been a “rollercoaster” with a number of positive COVID-19 results and once only had four athletes to work out with due to many teammates being in quarantine.

“With people in and out of quarantine it’s hard to tell what our indoor season is going to look like,” she said. “Right now, we don’t have any meets set up. It’s all up in the air.

“I think we’ll probably have an outdoor season since they can spread us out a little bit. I think more teams will have meets. I am hopeful and outdoor is my favorite season and I’d like to get out on the track one more time.”

While Noecker’s career finish is in limbo, Reifenrath’s genesis to her college days is also in that same holding pattern.

“This is definitely different and it’s definitely hard to get motivated when you don’t even know about the season,” Reifenrath said. “We’re just trying to wear masks in practice and try to protect the team so we can increase our chances that our meets won’t get canceled. Hopefully it will all be worth it.”

Reifenrath believes the Coyotes will have some meets with some regional opposition, but the travel to further-off events may be lacking.

“I think they are planning to have an indoor season as long as nobody gets corona, but that could change at a moment’s notice,” Reifenrath said. “It’s hard to say. I just go in with the mindset that we’ll have meets. I’d rather be prepared. I just go to practice and work as hard as I can.”

Reifenrath said that the team works out in smaller groups to be precautious. “All of my teammates are all motivated and

“All of my teammates are all motivated and would rather be prepared than not,” she said.

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