Orange County student athletes return to campus to practice, compete with coronavirus precautions

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- The Santa Ana High School football team was back on the field Tuesday after the Santa Ana Unified School District approved a plan allowing student athletes to return to conditioning programs.

Saints coach Charlie TeGantvoort said athletes are required to separate into pods, wear masks, disinfect equipment between drills and keep everything they bring with them.

"These kids were lined up an hour early, you know, because they're excited because they want to be back," TeGantvoort

With Santa Ana seeing the most COVID-19 cases in Orange County, Coach "T" said safely getting back to training was even more critical.

"Just because the depression and because when you have so much negativity, things hitting your family, loss of jobs, loss of life, you need somebody that you care about that cares about you to lean on a little bit and what better than a teammate and a coach," TeGantvoort said.

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Experts from the CDC say that with the right mitigation measures, there is a path to low-risk, in-person learning.

Quarterback Angel Vega said after seeing his family survive COVID-19, he was excited to see his coaches follow strict safety guidelines.

"You don't want to go out and then get exposed and then take it back to your parents or grandparents or whoever you live with. So it's like tough but it's also good for us for our health, our mental, it's what we love to do," Vega said.

Further south, Aliso Niguel High School runner Emily Richards placed first in a cross country meet over the weekend - the first once since March.

"Pretty amazing, it was just like nice to be back out there with another team, have a racing environment, a little bit of adrenaline," Richards said.

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The California Interscholastic Federation has several seasons going from January through April because of COVID-19. Cross country, skiing and snowboarding are allowed within the purple tier. That's where O.C. landed after the state lifted a regional stay at home order at the end of January.

ANHS Girl's Cross Country Head Coach Stacy Middlebrook said things looked different over the weekend. Only people living within the same household were allowed to cheer on students. A couple schools faced off instead of hundreds.

"All the teams are struggling with their numbers because with kids dropping out not knowing when the season is gonna be, but we're hoping for this to be a pretty sizable meet," Middlebrook said of their upcoming meet against Tesoro High School.

As the Wolverines prepared for next weekend's race, Saints wide receiver and defensive back Isaac Lariva said they would keep training with one hope: "To have a season."

According to SAUSD Public Information Officer Fermin Leal, as long as O.C. continues in the purple tier, school district officials are planning to allow conditioning for all sports as long as state guidelines are followed and training is outdoors.

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