After 435 days from a complete halt to high school athletics, Saturday, May 22, marked the conclusion to an arduous journey for athletes all across the Cape Henry Collegiate community. After an initial shock of the complete shutdown of the nation, clouds of doubt began to form in the realm of athletics. As the Cape Henry community held a collective breath for the upcoming 2020-2021 athletic season, the questions started to pour in. Will Cape Henry Collegiate have a season? Will athletes compete against other schools? What does this mean for my college-bound athlete?
“As more information kept coming out, the goal post just kept moving back,” Coach Dave Brun noted his thoughts about the 2020-2021 athletic season. “We were never quite sure if there would be a season or not. You just never really understand how much this all means to both the athletes and the coaches until you reach this moment.”
As the summer months passed and students of Cape Henry Collegiate entered into a brand new world, the Athletic Department presented the first glimmer of hope to the student-athletes. Finally, after 250 days from the last athletic contest on Cape Henry Collegiate’s campus, the Dolphins were back in action for the winter athletic season beginning on November 18.
“We were definitely anxious. There were a lot of nerves and a lot of excitement for the start of the season. We felt pressure knowing we were the first sports to compete during COVID, and at any moment, the season could just be over. On top of the emotions, it was difficult to grasp the concept of wearing masks while competing. As the season progressed, everything started to become easier to manage,” Student-athlete Izzy Schleifer ‘21 said of the beginning of the athletic calendar.
With all winter teams now underway, the first taste of the COVID athletic season was here. The cancellations began to rain down, sparing no program. Days continued to fly by until finally, one month later, the Dolphins hit the floor on December 18. As Varsity Girls Basketball drew the first road game of the year, Varsity Boys Basketball would begin the journey to a perfect season, winning the TCIS regular season and TCIS Tournament before coming from behind to beat Catholic High School in the 2021 State Finals. Captains Christian Moore ‘21 and Bryson Spell ‘21 led the charge, two athletes who define leadership regardless of the obstacles. While the basketball teams progressed through a competitive winter season, it would not be as easy for the remaining winter athletic programs.
With Varsity Swimming competing virtually in the TCIS, the opportunity arose to expand the number of events for each student-athlete. This young group of student-athletes competed in various new events throughout the 2020 season, using the year to develop the skills needed to compete for a TCIS title in 2021-2022. Unlike the competing winter athletes, Our wrestlers were aware that competition was out of the question from the onset. However, the resilience from Matt Gross ‘21, Mason Ehrenzeller ‘21, and Gianni Bezada-Schenone ‘21 set the tone for a group of young men to come in, work hard, and improve despite the circumstances in front of them. Much like the wrestling team, the Varsity Cheerleading and Indoor Track athletes were unable to compete. Instead of quitting or refusing to come out in 2020, these athletes saw an opportunity to improve the program for the future and set an example for the younger athletes.
“I was especially proud of the winter athletes this year. Each athlete rose above the negativity surrounding the start of the year,” noted Mr. Phil Reichhoff, Director of Fitness and Performance. “Even with the unending list of reasons to quit or not come out at all, these athletes stuck with it the whole time. Our winter athletes truly set the tone for the upcoming fall and spring seasons.”
Weathering the bitter cold instead of the typical summer heat, Cape Henry Collegiate fall athletics were underway on February 4. With the luxury of not being the first to compete, Fall athletics hit the ground running. Varsity Boys Soccer and Varsity Boys Volleyball continued to dominate the competition, with Varsity Soccer racing to a perfect season and a fourth consecutive TCIS Championship in 2021. For Boys Volleyball, 2021 brought the return of the TCIS Invitational Championship in a rematch of the 2020 finals against Norfolk Christian, with TCIS Tournament MVP Tristan Whitfield leading the way in his first year at Cape Henry. Female Athlete of the Year and 1st Team All-Tidewater recipient Olivia Zettervall and the Varsity Field Hockey program continued their winning traditions, defeating Catholic High School to earn their third consecutive TCIS Tournament Championship. With Field Hockey acquiring another TCIS title, Cape Henry dashed to the fourth TCIS title of the COVID year.
Continuing the fall accomplishments, Male Athlete of the Year Zach Earl led the Varsity Cross Country team to an elusive gold medal finish at the Norfolk Academy meet to cap off a tremendously complex and trying season for the endurance athletes. Varsity Girls Tennis, littered with tremendous young athletes, battled throughout the season and, as a result, gained valuable game experience to carry into the next season as the girls graduated a lone senior.
“We were definitely still nervous and wondering if we would still have the opportunity to play a game. We knew it would be challenging, but we all agreed to make the best of it,” Captain Brynn Earl ‘21 added. “When it was all said and done, we had a blast and we were all happy just to have the chance to play volleyball.”
Cape Henry Collegiate was almost there. Two-thirds of the athletic calendar was complete, with just one reason remaining. March 25 would mark an all-out sprint to the end. Spring athletics was upon us as warm weather began to return to Hampton Roads. Leading the charge throughout the spring, Junior 1st Team All-State recipients Olivia Fout and Bella Cooke, along with the Varsity Girls Soccer program capped off the remaining hardware for the Dolphins, capturing the fifth TCIS Title of the 2020-2021 athletic year before finishing the season in a hard-fought loss in the State Semifinal matchup. While the remaining spring programs could not bring home a trophy, the Varsity Boys Baseball team finished the year ranked fourth in the Division I VISAA state rankings and concluded the year with a second-straight semifinal berth. Varsity Boys Lacrosse continued the tradition of excellence, finishing a close second in the TCIS Tournament and advancing to the State Playoffs for yet another year.
Throughout the ups and downs of the spring season, the Varsity Girls Lacrosse team continued to improve. Despite falling in the TCIS quarterfinals, the girls regrouped to knock off the state’s top-ranked program and earn a bid in the 2021 State Finals. With the season concluding with a second-place finish for the Dolphins, a young core of returning athletes will look forward to building on the success from this past season. Surprising all but those in the CHC community, softball standout Sydney Larkin brought home her first recognition in a Dolphin uniform, earning All-TCIS honors as the stalwart athlete and the rest of the Varsity Softball program continued to make leaps in talent from year to year.
“I think our Athletic Department did a great job providing us the opportunity to play as many games as possible. Most other schools did not have the same opportunity, and it seemed like the team bought into the goals and made the best of all of the COVID rules,” said senior baseball standout and ODU baseball athlete Bryce Jones said of the spring athletic season. “Even though a lot of practice times were limited, most of the athletes took the opportunity to get on a field as much as possible outside of practice hours. It was great to be back in the State semifinals again and for our younger athletes to gain valuable state experience in a difficult year.”
For about two hours each afternoon, the world seemed to smile down on the athletic complex of Cape Henry Collegiate, providing a much-needed distraction to the previous 435 days for athletes all across Hampton Roads.
“Our initial winter and spring teams set the stage early on and it was clear their determination to play would prevail. It was incredible to finish the year and provide a spring season as close as we could get to ‘normal’, hosting three state quarterfinal games to close the home athletic calendar. The scheduling of games, canceling of games, temperature scans, playing in face coverings, participating without spectators, highlighted our athletes competing at their best in the most challenging athletic season of their careers. This is a true mark of a champion. All of the accomplishments throughout a season are amazing in a typical year, but hanging these banners on our annual Alumni Homecoming night, will reflect undeniable triumph. The perseverance of our coaches and student-athletes through unprecedented adversity is a powerful memory I will always cherish,” concluded Athletic Director Jeanne Short.
Thank you to all of the athletes that made this year so special. Thank you for giving us your best even when you were unsure if you could. Thank you for making a sacrifice for the progress of your community. Thank you for making this year great!