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Uplifting: West De Pere glad to get together for start of offseason workouts

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West De Pere athletes returned to school Wednesday for workouts for the first time since COVID-19 shut down high school sports in mid-March. (WLUK)

DE PERE (WLUK) -- For the first time since COVID-19 shut down high school sports in mid-March athletes were allowed Wednesday to return to school for workouts and it was good to be back.

"Very fun," West De Pere sophomore Thomas Mudd said when asked how his workout was going. "This is so exciting to get back to work. I thank them for having it during this tough time and it makes me feel great."

The last time high school athletes were competing was the girls state basketball tournament and the boys basketball sectional semifinals. Since then, no formal practices have been held and that remains. However, schools can now hold organized workouts and West De Pere was one of those schools that started Wednesday.

There are restrictions. Only 24 athletes are allowed in the weight room at one time and equipment has to be wiped down after using. Athletes did not wear masks but coaches helping in the workout did.

Phantoms athletics director Scott Eggart said there is up to 90 athletes normally in the weight room and it's loud. Wednesday, it was referred to a ghost town, but it didn't matter. Getting the kids back is important.

"There was that study that came out with UW Health that talked about mental health," West De Pere football coach Chris Greisen said. "A lot of kids struggled with this quarantine, so it's wonderful that we're back and being able to lift."

High school kids have been handcuffed the last three months, not being able to be kids. No sports, no socializing, nothing.

"('Its been) boring, very boring," Mudd said. "It's been a lot of pushups, situps and homework. It's been real hard, but me playing with my friends and games and going out to parks and stuff that has been really beneficial."

Wednesday was not the start for preparing for a season, but it was a start.

"It's just neat to see them and to have some structure in the day again and get something to do, make them feel accountable for something," West De Pere baseball coach Joe Rukamp said. "I think they were all waiting for it and I think they are excited about getting back to a little bit of a normal anyway."

Of course, the big question is, will there be fall sports and school? Nobody knows, but everyone is rooting for the same result.

"To get back into the routine and being in school and seeing kids face to face and having those relationships and building on those relationships I think is huge," Rukamp said. "If fall sports can happen, I think it's just great for the morale of the kids, for the morale of the school and hopefully the whole community."

And hopefully, Wednesday was the start of something much bigger.

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay