The COVID-19 pandemic certainly slowed down the world in 2020—and brought the sports world to a screeching halt. Student-athletes wondered what their seasons would look like, and more importantly if they would be given the opportunity to play at all. The Lakes Region schools – New Hampton, St. Paul’s, Holderness, Proctor, Tilton, Vermont Academy, and Kimball Union – worked tirelessly over the summer to construct a way to safely play interscholastic athletics. Together the athletic departments designed a seven-week schedule where schools were able to compete in soccer, field hockey, cross country, mountain biking and football. In such an abnormal time, we at Tilton School fought hard to keep the athletics traditions we were accustomed to before the pandemic. And with fans cheering on the sidelines for an evening contest, the smell of burgers from a parents association cookout lingering, while the stadium lights shined onto the turf field through the fog of night, we did just that. It didn’t hurt to have that Friday night also be the second time our football team has defeated Proctor Academy in the last ten years. Overall the fall season, although a much different athletic experience because of limited spectators, introduction of sports in masks and a game schedule that was cut-in-half; for our student-athletes and coaches, the opportunity to compete every Saturday was considered a win.
The winter season will look similar to the fall, but we will get a double dose of games per week. Our ice hockey and basketball teams will finally get a chance to showcase their new and returning talent, competing every Friday and Saturday through the end of March. Granted that it seems like a different lifetime, it was not even a year ago that our boys’ ice hockey team won their Lakes Region Tournament and our girls’ basketball team was crowned the NEPSAC (New England Preparatory School Athletic Council) Class A Champions. The Monday following that championship weekend, high-school and college tournaments were cut-short and even cancelled due to the swift spreading COVID-19 virus. Fast forward to today, our winter teams are off to a hot start. The girls’ varsity basketball team picked up right where they left off, winning their first four games of this short season by high margins. The boys’ varsity b ice hockey team also remains undefeated through three contests, and boys’ varsity basketball has won two in a row!
The Lakes Region league has been described in the NEPSAC as trailblazers, remaining as the only independent school league during this pandemic to battle in interscholastic athletics. The amount of time, energy and work put into developing a plan, policies and eventually a schedule were absolutely worth it to witness the eagerness and excitement of our student-athletes to play every weekend.