By Claire Cornelius
For The Signal
Normally, after baseball player Tucker Panarisi spends a couple of hours practicing his swings in the cages, he hits the weight room with his teammates.
Since batting practice moved into his backyard, though, going through his normal routine has been more difficult.
“I have been doing a lot of lifting, bodyweight mainly, since there’s no gyms open,” said Panarisi, who graduated from Saugus High School in 2019. “And I don’t have many weights lying around my house.”
Panarisi, like many other current and former Santa Clarita Valley athletes, is working to stay in shape during an extended offseason — away from their teammates, coaches and their competition — while they try to compete and maintain at the next level.
Panarisi, a freshman at Providence College, severely injured his back in summer 2019, which forced him to miss out on the beginning of his senior season for the Centurions.
“I was getting back. I would say like now, I would have been able to play. I would have been able to play probably halfway into season,” Panarisi said. “But obviously, the season was cut short.”
Unfortunately for Panarisi, he healed and was ready to play as soon as sports at all levels around the world came to a screeching halt; but he remains positive on his quarantine outlook.
“To find out that the virus was taking up the end of our season, it kind of sucked. But it’s also like a blessing in disguise because I have so much time to work, to get better, and to get stronger and faster,” Panarisi said.
Providence recruiters found Panarisi through an app called FieldLevel, where high school coaches and players can be discovered by multiple colleges across the country looking at players’ uploaded videos.
Making the team
Faith Bolde, a dancer committed to California Baptist University, attended a cheer clinic hosted by CBU, where she met her future coach, but she also learned to make a virtual connection during the pandemic.
Bolde joined the CBU dance team via a virtual tryout, in which she sent in a video of her solo performance from the Saugus High dance team, as well as some floor technique videos. Bolde also attended a FaceTime call, so the coach could get a feel for her personality.
“Her whole part of making the team is really special and, in order to make the team, it’s not just because of your ability of how you dance, but also the kind of person you are and your character,” Bolde said.
Emma Enright, who is set to cheer at Grand Canyon University next year, has been told her new coaches and trainers will be giving her more specific information on how she should prepare for cheer in the fall.
“We have Zoom meetings with my new college cheer team, and then we should be getting workouts and stuff that is going to prepare me for my first practice when I get to GCU,” Enright said.
Viviana Raker, committed to UC Santa Cruz for swim, feels her four years of experience with the Saugus swim team have prepared her for the next level.
While she gets ready for the challenge of NCAA competition, Raker talks daily to her future teammates over social media and receives regular updates from her coach about what athletics will look like in the fall.
The responsibility of staying in shape over the summer largely has fallen upon the athletes themselves, as coaches have had public health restrictions against team workouts in addition to collegiate rules.
With gym closures and social distancing in effect, athletes have been forced to be diligent and creative with their at-home workouts.
Panarisi’s family recently put a batting cage in their backyard to help him perfect his technique.
Bolde turned her garage into a dance studio, with mirrors and a custom dance floor.
“I’ve been training really hard, basically dancing every single day. And I honestly can say that my technique has gotten better over quarantine because of self-evaluation,” Bolde said.
Raker has also been utilizing the extra time to practice and prepare for her freshman season at UC Santa Cruz.
“I’ve been staying in shape by doing hikes, and I have a family friend that’s been lending me their pool for a bit. So I kind of just do static swimming there,” Raker said.
Enright has been keeping in shape by going on runs and doing follow-along YouTube core workouts. To stay sharp in cheer technique, Enright tumbles a few times a week.
Despite the unprecedented circumstances, these athletes have remained humble and hopeful of their futures in college athletics.
“It’s not the end of the world,” Panarisi said. “It is what it is, and everyone is going through the same thing.”