Wellsville athletes ’love’ getting back together

Greg Mast
The Wellsville High School football players lift weights during their first week of conditioning.

WELLSVILLE — Ayden Kearney could not contain his excitement in returning to organized workouts with his teammates and coaches.

The Wellsville High School senior and the rest of the Eagle athletes went through conditioning drills and weight lifting during the first week.

“I love it, seeing everybody on the team for the first time since March,” Kearney said. “I have been waiting so long for it. I love the sport of football.”

After nearly three months being away from each other and not having any type of sports activities because of COVID-19 concerns, going through drills did not quell the athletes’ attitude.

“They are excited to get back in and getting stronger,” Wellsville football coach Mike Berg said. “Their attitude is refreshing. Attendance has been phenomenal.”

Tim Savage, Wellsville cross country coach, put his athletes through the paces to see where they were physically.

“They are struggling a little bit, losing the spring season,” he said. “You can tell who has gotten out and run. Losing that track season (was tough).”

The best thing about the first week of conditioning was being back together as teams.

“They missed each other,” Berg said. “It is a real close-knit group. I am tired of seeing our team on a screen.”

Kearney equated it to seeing a family member for the first time in a long time.

“A lot of these guys I have not seen for three months,” the senior said. “I miss them a lot. Once you are on this football team, you have 40 friends.”

Savage said the teens were tired of being inside.

“The kids are ready to get out,” he said. “It is good to see them and get going again.”

Berg said the football players returned in good shape.

“I am proud of them,” he said. “They made it through 2.5 months. They worked out hard. We had guys that set goals for themselves. A lot of them achieved those goals. I had a guy that wanted to drop a few pounds. I barely recognized him.”

The athletes became creative to stay in shape during their time away. Berg said some of them lifted milk jugs or cut firewood.

“When you get the iron on the bar, it is a bit different,” Berg said “They lost a little bit, but I think it will come back quick. When our season ended, we told them the (next) season starts immediately. We got stronger over the winter. They saw what hard work does with the gains they made.”

Kearney said the effort during the first week of conditioning will pay dividends.

“(Last) week, we are trying to get our muscles going,” he said. “My legs are a little sore. The coaches bring a good vibe to the team. They are always high energy. They make you work hard.”

Berg said the players are determined to turn around the football team’s fortunes after not qualifying for the 16-team 3A state playoffs last season.

“The tradition is strong here,” Berg said. “You look back on the great teams that coach (Bill) Oshel and coach (Jim) Wright built. Our guys are real determined to be successful. There is a lot of high expectations at Wellsville. We are happy to keep the tradition strong.”

The coaches put the athletes through the paces to wake up their muscles.

“We did a lot of endurance training,” Berg said. “We split them so our groups are small. We will have a group outside doing conditioning. We have been running stairs, doing agility drills. In the weight room, we are doing a lot of lighter weights and high repetitions. They are feeling it. We are doing flexibility exercises to ease them back in. We build will on from last week (this week). Add a little weight to their sets and still ease them into it.”

The coaches are following KSHSAA guidelines where the first 10 practices (15 for football) are limited to conditioning and lifting.

Berg is looking forward to getting back on the football field and teaching techniques and the plays.

“We are looking to pick it up (and be ready for that),” Kearney said.