OKEMOS TOWNSHIP, Mich. — In a year full of uncertainty, high school athletes say they're staying connected to their teams and their dreams any way they can.
Almost a year ago, Okemos High School’s Zoe Ziegler realized she wouldn’t get to take the field with her senior lacrosse teammates ever again.
"It's really unfortunate, and I really felt for the seniors especially," Ziegler said. "But I know that I still had time left, so it was sad to hear. But in the larger scheme of things, I think there are things bigger than sports."
Ziegler committed to play lacrosse at Grand Valley State next year, but it was her work in the classroom and on the cross country team that earned her one of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Scholar-Athlete scholarships.
"I feel more motivated, because a lot of it comes from just doing things on my own, especially now," Ziegler said. "My team has been doing workouts on Zoom, but I like to go run on my own or do workouts other than that, too."
Michaela Castle of Ionia High School was also honored by the MHSAA as a scholar-athlete for the class of 2021, but she says the greatest award was time with her volleyball and basketball teammates.
“We've always had group chats with my teammates,” Castle said, "kind of just talking to each other and just letting each other know, just keep hanging in there."
When it started to feel like their whole lives were run through Zoom, they found ways to make solo workouts fun.
“For me, when I'm feeling stressed out or when I'm upset the solution might be go hit a ball off the tee, that kind of thing,” Castle said. "It just kind of helps get you through the day."
Always keeping in mind why they started competing in the first place.
“I'm really passionate about lacrosse and academics, and I want to do well at both,” Ziegler said.
“And I think once I got a taste of the competitiveness and just that feeling of adrenaline when you're on the field and you're actually playing a sport, I just couldn't get enough,” Castle said.
Winter sports are in full swing, and the spring season is set to begin March 22, with the postseason wrapping up June 19.