First steps of freedom

June 3, 2020

U-High students anticipate stepping into a world after social distancing and what activities they will take part in. (Chloe Ma)

As the pandemic has caused all people to stay home, it has shifted the way many define freedom in regards to athletics, social life and family. In re-evaluating these circumstances, many have come to the conclusion that it is important to no longer take this freedom for granted. 

As students’ freedom changed, definition evolved for many

This is an audio story that covers how some students feel their definition of freedom has or hasn’t changed throughout the pandemic. The stay at home order has changed many things that some students did not consider to be freedoms, but everyday occurrences. These things include: who they are allowed to see, where they can go and what they can do. While most students do feel restricted, there are a few whose ideas about freedom haven’t been affected by the quarantine. The following audio story shows how those restrictions have (or haven’t) altered the perceptions of freedom for four U-High students.


Preparation continues for year-round athletes

Sweaty and exhausted, rower Ethan Lee finishes his rowing machine workout and sends his split times to his coach. The afternoon of May 14 will mark his 65th time erging alone during the stay-at-home order since mid March, a significant contrast to daily rowing on the Chicago River beside seven of his teammates.

Some students involved year round in outside-of-school sports are continuing to prepare for upcoming competitions despite a considerable change of scenery, loss of equipment and irregular practices. These athletes are trying their best to train per usual, and are most excited to get back to their regular facilities, as they now view the freedoms they used to have access to very differently. 

Junior Charlie Brennan, a fencer, has been having hour long team Zoom practices five times a week. He also receives exercises sent from his coach to work on individually and reviews competition films. 

Practicing in his living room has caused Charlie to reevaluate what a practice facility means to him. 

“When we go to the gym, we are entering our coach’s space, so it’s natural we would be under his direction,” Charlie said. “When we’re in our own homes, we kind of feel more chill, but you’re letting him lead you in your house now, which is strange.” 

Charlie says he is most eager to practice against real competitors, as nobody else in his household can fence. 

Gymnast Rithik Puri feels that his daily 90-minute Zoom workouts are a way for his team to stay motivated. 

“It’s definitely a morale boost to see everybody on the Zoom,” Rithik, a junior, said. “Shared struggle really unites people.”  

Although all state, regional and national competitions have been canceled for Rithik and his team, they see this time as a time to attend to injuries and work on basic skills. 

“This is a great opportunity that we’re taking to really focus on strength and flexibility,” Rithik said. “A lot of the guys are doing a lot of therapy on their own time and appreciating the time they now have to fine tune some things moving into the summer.”

Rithik said, it’s a lot about looking at what his team can do instead of what they can’t and then immediately work on skills when we can go to the gym. 

“My coach always says one day out of the gym is two days in the gym to get back what you lost,” Rithik said. “So as soon as we can get out [of our homes, we’re kind of looking at the entire summer getting back in the gym and preparing for next season.”

My coach always says one day out of the gym is two days in the gym to get back what you lost. So as soon as we can get out of our homes, we’re kind of looking at the entire summer getting back in the gym and preparing for next season.

— Rithik Puri

Ethan, a junior, is gaining drive for his daily training through the hope of competition in the near future.

“We may still have a regatta this summer, so that’s also motivation,” Ethan said. 

The Chicago Rowing Foundation has implemented a plan that all rowers are allowed to practice in two-person pair boats beginning June 1, to abide by the City of Chicago social distancing guidelines

“Rowing is a year long sport and we never stop training. This is not a time to slack off, and it will be fairly obvious who has been putting in the training and who has not,” Ethan said.

As his team has learned and adapted throughout the stay-at-home, Rithik has seen his workout regimen change. 

“Our coaches have added and taken away different components to their training to make this time at home as efficient as possible,” Rithik said. “We are always keeping in mind what’s in the future and wondering when we can go back to the gym.”

With each of their vital facilities being taken away, these athletes feel increased anticipation to practice outside of their homes. 

“I don’t have a humanoid target in my room the way there is a little dummy on the wall at practice,” said Charlie. “Although it’s a struggle, I think it shows how you have to make due with what you have, and if you’re really dedicated, you won’t let this time stop you from improving.” 

 Ethan’s team has made a point system, based on the results of their erg pieces, rewarding athletes with the highest points at the end of the week. This serves as motivation to continue individual practices to prepare for their summer regatta. 

Ethan said, “One hundred percent you’re going to be able to tell who’s been really putting in the work and who hasn’t.”

Students anticipate social interaction after self-quarantine

Alina Susani, Saul Arnow, Talia Lasko, Chloe Ma, Caroline Hohner, Grace Holleb

Students anticipate social interaction after self-quarantine

Self-quarantine has led to U-High students craving for regular social interaction with their friends. On their first day of freedom after stay-at-home orders are lifted, high schoolers are looking forward to resuming normal activities with their peers – ranging from sports to simply eating meals. Several students are also eager to reconnect with people that they have lost touch with once school restarts. They crave the friendly and social environment that school fostered for them. While this is a difficult time during which replicating the social environment U-High students once had is difficult, high-schoolers have all held onto activities with their friends that they are looking forward to and are staying optimistic.

Chicago spots to visit

In a survey given to 101 U-High students, these are some of the Chicagoland restaurants, monuments, shops etc. recommended to check out once safe to.

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