Excitement is mounting for local student athletes as area high school athletic programs have started participating in limited workout sessions for the first time this school year. The Lake Elsinore, Murrieta and Temecula school districts all approved its teams to start in-person workouts recently with certain guidelines.

Protocols are a little different at each site, but for the most part, temperatures are taken upon arrival and coaches ask players questions as part of a health screening. When workouts commence, players are divided into groups to adhere to physical distancing protocols. Some of the teams limit the groups to 20 players with others having up to 40.

Most coaches have not seen their players in-person since the middle of March, and there is only so much teams can do in a Zoom meeting.

Andrew Ramer, head football coach of Chaparral High School, is excited to get back on the field, especially with Brigham Young University commits Elia, right, and Enoka Migao. Valley News/Rob Davis Photography photo

“Thank goodness we have the technology to get us connected but seeing these players right in front of you, after all this time off, is something special,” Andrew Ramer, head football coach at Chaparral High School, whose program opens up their season against Tesoro High School Friday, Jan. 8. “This is what everyone has been waiting for. It is a sign of hope, and that is something the kids need. The players are so happy to be together as a team; they almost don’t care that all they can do is condition together.”

Chaparral was the first school in the area to start having the workouts after receiving approval. Most fall sports are conditioning, as well as other programs like baseball and softball.

“Obviously, everyone is very excited,” John Broussard, athletic director of Murrieta Mesa High School, said. “The thrill for them to be back on campus shows. Seeing our student athletes excited about conditioning drills is great. They haven’t had an opportunity like this for some time, so they are thrilled.”

For most, the workout plans are divided into phases, and all teams currently are in Phase 1, which is mostly conditioning drills. Later stages will include the introduction of equipment and access to weight rooms with the final stage being standard practices.

“At this time, TVUSD is only allowing cleared student athletes and coaches to be on campus,” Herschel Ramirez, athletic director of Great Oak High School, said. “Unfortunately, parents, visitors and the public are still not permitted on campus.”

Local school districts have approved its athletic teams to start in-person workouts last week with certain guidelines, like the ones posted here at Great Oak High School. Valley News/Courtesy photo

COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so acclimating to the phases is going to take some getting used to. Temecula Valley football coach Bert Esposito knows firsthand how the effects of the coronavirus can dampen things. Esposito tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in September and will need to be cleared before participating. Esposito said his symptoms were mild, and he could be back next week.

“I’m happy for all of our kids and coaches, and I can’t wait to be back out there with them,” Esposito told the media last week. “These workouts have given us something to shoot for and shows that we’re moving in the right direction.”

Other teams in southwest Riverside County soon will be joining this group. The Perris Union School District, as well as the Hemet Unified School District districts have not approved initial workouts for their schools, but many are hoping things ramp up beginning Oct. 1.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.