Gunston School athletics are returning to the playing fields.
Like most Maryland high schools, Gunston, the Centreville-based private school, had initially decided against having an athletics season this fall because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, though the school’s tier-one (no-contact) programs, golf and cross country, were scheduled to compete.
But according to John Lewis, head of Gunston School, the school’s steering committee in partnership with Dr. Joseph Ciotola, health officer for Queen Anne’s County Department of Health, decided last week it was OK for its tier-two programs — field hockey and boys’ and girls’ soccer — to return to competition.
“I’m overjoyed,” Lewis said. “I think this has been a particularly difficult year for kids and for schools. I’m overjoyed.”
Lewis said Gunston was initially advised by the Queen Anne’s Department of Health that tier-two and tier-three sports (football, boys’ lacrosse) were not advisable in the fall. Gunston does not have a football program, and its boys’ lacrosse team plays in the spring.
“And then as the metrics evolved and as the governor’s advisories evolved, Queen Anne’s lifted that restriction on youth sports, which functionally lifted the restriction for us as a school,” Lewis said.
“I think (for) all school communities, athletics is a huge part of life, both for the spirit of the community, and frankly for the health and wellness of the kids,” Lewis continued. “I think for us it’s one of the most important pieces. But we had a really comprehensive intramural program that we had developed. But we have really full support from our community to move ahead with athletics. So it’s the combination of mission, health guidance and community passion.”
Lewis said Gunston is tentatively scheduled to start its field hockey and soccer seasons on Sept. 25.
He also said the only sport Gunston has taken off the board is volleyball, which was slated for its inaugural season.
“We’re currently avoiding any indoor athletics,” Lewis said.
Lewis also noted while Gunston’s sailing and crew teams will return to the water, they will not compete against other teams based on U.S. Rowing’s decision to suspend all events through the year.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that about 40 percent of kids at Gunston participate in waterfront sports,” Lewis said. “So with our crew team that is probably the most challenging of our sports to manage. But essentially we are cohorting the kids into boats. Usually you kind of mix and match, but with crew we have a whole series of protocols for equipment sanitizing, boat cohorting and just constant screening to help prevent any outbreak.”
Lewis said Gunston will hold intra-squad competitions on the water this school year.
Lewis praised Ciotola for keeping Gunston abreast of developments and providing information when needed.
“He’s been such a great partner for us,” Lewis said of Ciotola. “He picks up the phone. He’s very responsive. He’s advised us that with various safety protocols and mitigation that we can have a successful season.”