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NATE WEITZER | SCHOOL NOTEBOOK

Framingham athletes welcome opportunities to return to practice, competition in busy Fall II season

Framingham High field hockey coach Ellen Sowa hands out disinfectant wipes to her players after practice Thursday to wipe down the balls at Phil Read Field.
Framingham High field hockey coach Ellen Sowa hands out disinfectant wipes to her players after practice Thursday to wipe down the balls at Phil Read Field.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

After months of inactivity, the athletic fields at Framingham High are springing to life.

The Flyers were unable to host sports this fall or winter because of coronavirus concerns, but now their athletic department is offering 14 sports from those seasons during the floating Fall II period, which started last Monday and runs through April 25.

While the logistics are daunting for athletic director Paul Spear and his staff, the Framingham school district has offered creative budgetary solutions to help the Flyers rent practice fields in nearby Northborough, Marlborough, and more, while the high school’s usual facilities are plowed and accommodating back-to-back practices starting late last week.

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“I don’t know logistically how it all came together, but I’m just glad they did figure it out,” said Framingham field hockey coach Ellen Sowa. “I was skeptical in the fall that we would have a Fall II sport in March. I never thought our turf would get plowed, but all the teams are sharing now. We all make room for each other.”

For Spear, holding 14 sports at once required plenty of logistical leg work, but it was an endeavor several months in the making.

The fourth-year AD was disappointed to send a letter in late October notifying families that there would be no winter sports at Framingham, just a few weeks after determining that the swim teams wouldn’t have pool access at Keefe Tech and the golf team was unable to find any course time.

Framingham paid its coaches a portion of their salary to stay involved with student-athletes virtually and held out hope for some sort of live practice and competition for those canceled seasons. Last week, the dream started to form when the department got the fields plowed and secured pool access. It tested 400 student-athletes for COVID-19 on Monday to ensure the programs could get started on a safe note.

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“It’s like reinventing the wheel,” said Spear, formerly the school’s longtime boys’ hockey coach. “Everyone has been supportive and the mantra is ‘patience and flexibility.’ We’ve warned people it’s not going to be anything like what we’re used to, but the most important thing for kids is the ability to say goodbye within the context of their sport.”

While several fall sports, including field hockey, have secured a few games against Central Mass. programs, there are very limited possibilities for hockey or basketball to find interscholastic competition since most schools wrapped up winter sports by Feb. 22.

Rachel Marinofsky is a captain on the field hockey and girls’ ice hockey team, and is one of eight student-athletes participating in both sports this Fall II season. The Flyers are skating twice a week at Loring Arena and girls’ hockey coach Casey Diana has been in contact with Sowa about coordinating practice times and agendas so the players experience fewer conflicts.

“I’m lucky we have so many multi-sport athletes,” said Diana, adding that 11 of her 20 players are also participating in field hockey, volleyball, or cross-country during Fall II.

“I think it’s great they get to play both and make up for lost time. With help from our captains, we’ve been able to create a schedule and puzzle piece it together.”

Schools in the Mayflower League are also incorporating some winter sports into the Fall II period, creating a difficult choice for Tri-County Regional senior A.J. Fusco.

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The returning captain on the boys’ soccer team, Fusco plans to play hockey at Mass Maritime next year, but practice times conflicted and the Mayflower plans to hold league hockey games this spring between six participating schools.

So the Wrentham resident wrestled with his decision for months, and recently decided that he would once again play left wing on the hockey team before wrapping up his high school athletic career on the baseball diamond this spring.

“I thought about it nonstop, every day for three months,” Fusco said. “These are sports I grew up with since I was 3 years old, and I’ve got to say goodbye to one of them. It’s the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make. I could’ve cared less how many games we won or lost, I definitely cared more about the people involved. No matter what, I was letting someone down.”

Spear offered that the one silver lining from the pandemic is a renewed focus on the relationships involved in high school sports, rather than an intense focus on results.

Three-sport athletes such as Fusco and Marinofsky — who will play lacrosse this spring — echo that sentiment.

“I think everyone feels the more, the better,” said Marinofsky, a standout defender in all three sports.

“It’s so different — from months of not having anything to do, to playing two sports at once, but it’s a good change to the routine. To be able to play on the field, or on the rink one last time, it’s amazing.

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“If we get the chance to have a game, that would be nice, but it’ll be just as fun without it.”

Rachel Marinofsky (center), flanked by fellow Framingham field hockey captains Annika Lynch and Arden Dailida, will play field hockey and ice hockey during the Fall II season.
Rachel Marinofsky (center), flanked by fellow Framingham field hockey captains Annika Lynch and Arden Dailida, will play field hockey and ice hockey during the Fall II season.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff


With the snow cleared at Phil Read Field, Framingham High field hockey players were able to get their preseason work in on Thursday.
With the snow cleared at Phil Read Field, Framingham High field hockey players were able to get their preseason work in on Thursday.Matthew J Lee/Globe staff

Taking note

▪ The Greater Boston League will begin practices for its adjusted winter season this week. The GBL voted in January to delay winter sports to a period from March 1 to April 10, and run Fall II sports from April 12 to May 15, followed by spring sports from May 17 to July 3.

▪ The MIAA Softball Committee voted to recommend that the spring season conclude by Saturday, June 26, citing concerns of coaches who are also teachers violating contracts by coaching into July, as well as potential conflicts with club sports and family vacations ... While the Tournament Management Committee voiced similar concerns, it voted 12-6-1 to recommend sectional tournaments for spring sports, which begin April 26 and would likely conclude before the end of June. A motion to extend those tournaments to a statewide format was defeated by a 14-4 vote.

▪ Conference tournaments for the winter season wrapped up this weekend, with Fenway girls’ basketball winning a fourth straight title and Latin Academy clinching its first title since 1993 in the Boston City League Championships . . . In the Cape & Islands Lighthouse Tournament, Cape Cod Academy junior Jaeden Greenleaf dropped 38 points in a 71-42 win over Monomoy, a week after breaking the Cape’s career scoring record of 1,713 points, set by Chatham grad Christian Messersmith in 2006. Greenleaf averaged 32 points per game this season.

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▪ Noble & Greenough senior Caroline Ducharme, a UConn-bound guard from Milton, was selected to the 2021 McDonald’s All-American Game.

▪ The following athletes recently announced or formalized their college commitments

Basketball: Sammy Batista, St. Mary’s (Nichols); Ryan Donahue, Boston Latin (Kent State); Avery O’Connor, Dedham (UNH)

Football: Cam Reirden, Belmont Hill (UMass).