Wildcat athletes eager to compete after sports being absent due to pandemic – The Orion

Wildcat athletes eager to compete after sports being absent due to pandemic – The Orion

Wildcat fans and athletes have been deprived of sports for about a year and a half since COVID-19 stopped Chico State sporting events indefinitely on March 12, 2020.

The 2021 fall season is now underway and it includes events for soccer, volleyball, golf and cross-country. Wildcat athletes will be able to play in front of home crowds and hit the road for away games.

The return of Chico State sports has proven to be an uplifting moment for athletes. Chico State women’s soccer head coach, Kim Sutton spoke about the emotions she felt when she saw her players back on the field.

“It was just a blessing to have them get together because it kind of took all of the nerves away … I can’t even express it, they could probably tell you better. For me it was a huge relief to just feel like we had a sense of moving forward.”

That feeling of returning to a state of normalcy hasn’t just been felt by athletes and coaches, but by the Chico community as well. Sutton has noticed this first hand.

“With an outdoor sport, it’s such a great thing to come to,” Sutton said. “You can social distance [while] feeling the community back together. Our kids have the fans out there that bring a lot of energy and [some of the fans] are fellow athletes … I think for the local community it’s going to be great.”

Chico State women’s head soccer coach, Kim Sutton
By Raymundo Sayago

During such a hectic period in their career, returning athletes are itching to finally get back to competing in the sport they love, while newer athletes are looking forward to finally playing at the collegiate level for the first time. 

Cross-country runner and sophomore Gracie Dupuis is coming off an excellent season, making it all the way to nationals as a freshman. Dupuis is grateful to be back to training with her team.

“I think it just makes you appreciate the people that you have [around you] and the time that you have together,” Dupuis said. 

Aside from making it to nationals, Dupuis has performed well in the classroom, receiving recognition for making it onto the California Collegiate Athletic Association fall Academic Honor Roll for the 2020-21 fall semester. Dupuis is actively working on continuing the momentum she has built, while looking out for the new and incoming athletes on the team.

“Besides just trying my best to stay in shape during quarantine and this whole pandemic. I think trying to bring up a lot of the younger athletes to get them excited and have them buy in,” Dupuis said. “If they buy in, everyone buys in.” 

Freshmen are overlooked by fans, but they play a crucial role in setting up the foundation for their program’s future. This is the time where they can soak up knowledge from their peers, while also bringing their talents to the table.

Bring in volleyball player Jane Mcnulty. Entering this season as a redshirt freshman, Mcnulty is a sophomore academically. When an athlete is given the opportunity to redshirt, it means that they’re able to practice and spend time with the team their first season, without competing in any games. This allows them to familiarize themselves with the team in their first year and grants athletes four years of eligibility after their freshman season ends. Mcnulty has talent and motivation to cement herself in the program.

Mcnulty led her high school team to the state semifinals in 2019. She expressed her excitement to get on the court and play.

“I was nervous but also excited to start again and see what it was all like. I’m excited for the next four years. It’s going to be really fun.”

Due to limited space for traveling, she listened to the livestream for the first three games of the season. With limited opportunities on the court, Mcnulty has been learning on and off the court. 

“We have a lot of older girls on the team and they all show leadership in really great ways,” Mcnulty said. “I’ve learned from them, how to be a leader on the team and [how to] carry that onto the freshmen and sophomores because we all look up to them immensely.”

This season is shaping up to be the most unique and significant season that athletes and fans will experience. While fans across the world rejoice for the return of live sporting events, excitement is high here at Chico State with the return of Wildcat sporting events. 

Raymundo Sayago Aguilar can be reached at [email protected] or @rsayagoaguilar on Twitter.

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