A gallon jug of hand sanitizer sat inside the entrance to Woodbury High School’s stadium as the first of about 300 athletes began arriving at 6:50 a.m. Monday.
Assistant football coaches stopped them at the fence encircling the turf field and asked four health-related questions. After answering no to each, athletes dropped their bags and water bottles at one of dozens of bright green tape pieces affixed to the fence every six feet.
Then they found their assigned group, designated by one of nine orange cones spread the width of the field. Head football coach Andy Hill instructed, “As you wait, move apart a little bit.”
Players obliged, some with arms crossed to take the edge off the morning chill. These young men and women, separated for much of the past three months, wore smiles and managed a few laughs as they waited for ‘‘Royal Power and Speed Training’’ to begin.
“As soon as they were able to get back out here, they were all in,” Hill said. “All these fall sports athletes are out here when there’s nothing promised. They are here in good faith that they will be able to play.”
A digital sign on the eastern edge of the campus read “Enjoy Your Summer,” a sentiment that became more real to athletes finally gathering en masse.
Jake Raines, a center on the football team and a Star Tribune All Metro second-team pick last fall, said he recently started waking up to an alarm to ready his body for 7 a.m. workouts.
“It’s a way different atmosphere when you’re working with your teammates,” Raines said. “Lifting alone, it’s harder to get motivated.”
For Kenna Smutny, preparing for the soccer fitness test meant solo runs through her neighborhood. But with the need to keep distance paramount during Monday’s training, togetherness took on new meaning.
“After we would finish a hard run, we didn’t congratulate each other by slapping hands or anything,” said Smutny, a junior this fall who also runs track. “It was weird.”
Hill said, “Being away from each other and school — I think there’s an uncomfortable, if not negative, effect on the kids. They are very excited to get back to normal.”
Unknowns cloud the new normal. Raines’ senior class hopes not to start the way the Class of 2020 finished.
“It’s always in the back of your mind but you can’t worry about it,” Raines said, adding that he is “planning to start playing on Aug. 17,” the date fall sports are scheduled to begin.