The helmets and pants got dirty. The sweat dripped, both during drills and during water breaks.
Monday was the first day of preseason practice for high school sports teams in New York, bringing a flood of athletes from Dutchess County’s 15 schools back to the fields with enthusiasm for a new season.
“I think we were all pretty amped up since it was the first day back,” said Joe Mills, a senior wide receiver on the Spackenkill High School football team. “It’s football. It’s a great sport and you’ve got to have energy to do it.”
Mills said he woke up at 6 a.m. on Monday in order to be ready for the 7 a.m. practice.
“Me personally, I strive to be the best,” Mills said. “That’s the only way you can really get better as a player.”
Spackenkill’s football and soccer teams were all using the same field at one point on Monday. While the football team practiced snaps, the boys soccer team ran laps around the track and the girls soccer team did sit-ups in the end zone. Like Mills, James Hooker said he ran every day during the summer.
“(Coach Manny) Blanco’s tryouts are usually awful,” said Hooker, a senior midfielder on the boys soccer team, “probably because we do so much different stuff and we do it in such little time. We’ve been here two hours and we already ran two miles and it’s probably more than that because we’ve done jogs and stuff.
“It’s tough, but it’s all for the greater good because we’re all fit for the season.”
Spackenkill volleyball player Nur Sher competes for locally-based Apex Volleyball Club in the summer and traveled to tournaments in Arizona and Oklahoma in the offseason, but is excited to bring that experience back home.
“I couldn’t sleep last night, I was so excited,” Sher said. “This group has done really, really well the past couple of years and everyone’s hungry for that sectional championship, so that’s what we’re going after.”
At Arlington, the action was spread out across its campus, and the boys soccer team practiced at the Stringham Road fields. The weather on Monday was atypical for mid-August. Most area teams started practicing in the early morning and the temperature had only reached about 60 degrees.
“It’s great. I love it,” said Arlington girls soccer player Haleigh Schanz. “I wish it was colder actually. It feels good to have a nice breeze.”
The Millbrook football team had no problem with heat at its opening practice, as it opted to kickoff at the strike of midnight Sunday night. The team finished at 2:45 a.m. and had the rest of Monday off, while many area football teams fit multiple practices into the day.
“If we’ve got to worry about two hours,” Millbrook coach Sean Keenan said of the lost practice time, “giving up two hours to do something special, you shouldn’t be coaching.”
At John Jay, the football team held a morning and afternoon session, as it began a quest to win back-to-back league titles. In between sessions, the Patriots worked out in the weight room and were given an hour off for lunch.
“It’s real exciting. I’ve been training hard all winter and summer long waiting for this moment,” John Jay senior tight end/defensive end Robbie Schumacher said.
“We’re expecting to do big things this year. We have a lot of guys returning and a lot of returning seniors. We have guys coming up who are working hard and doing well.”
Inside the gymnasium at John Jay, the Patriots volleyball team opened preseason with many new faces and a new coach. Maria Mahoney, who was an assistant last year for Kalah Lipinski, is the new head coach for a program that finished 22-1 overall and reached the state final four in 2013. Lipinski is assisting Mahoney.
“Practice went well,” Mahoney said. “We had a huge turnout. We had almost 50 girls show up. The girls came out enthusiastic and ready to play. It’s definitely a different team than last year.”
Journal reporters Dan Pietrafesa and Mike Benischek contributed to this report.