BILLINGS -- Super fortunate. Grateful. Relieved. Incredibly blessed.
Those were just some of the descriptions running rampant on a Friday morning that couldn't get here fast enough for high school athletes all over Montana. It was opening day of workouts after five months of COVID-19 question marks as to whether it would exist.
Billings West High's soccer girls are Class AA's reigning state champions and couldn't imagine not being able to defend it. With the loss of only one senior, the Bears appear to again be loaded.
"It would have been really sad, I don't know how I would feel," West center-mid Avery Kimmel told MTN Sports after practice. "Just very sad because we have a state title to defend and we want to keep going with that."
"We're looking to build on what we did last year and, yeah, it would've been a big disappointment for, I think, everybody," said Bears head coach Rob Zimmerman. "The expectations are high and to not be able to have a season, I think, would've been devastating to some of the girls."
West goalkeeper Kendall Ellis admitted there was a little more bounce in everybody's step Friday morning than in previous opening-day workouts.
"We didn't know at the beginning of the summer if we could have (a season), but we're just super grateful to be out here working and just playing the game we love," she said.
Up at Billings Skyview, Stormy Siemion opened her high school head coaching career with the Falcons. It's the first time we've referred to Skyview's head volleyball coach as someone other than Vicki Carle, who resigned last spring after 28 seasons.
Siemeon has her own championship pedigree as a four-time State B title winner at Huntley Project.
"Ever since I accepted the job, this is the day I've been dreaming of," Siemion told MTN Sports. "I've stayed up late at night just thinking, 'Please, I hope we get to have a season,' and I just feel so incredibly blessed that we've gotten to this point."
Even after a stern conditioning session to end practice, Siemion's players expressed the same gratitude of returning to the court.
"I feel like we were all just super fortunate and grateful to be out here and we want to take advantage of every second we get on the court," said hitter Jessi Henckel.
"It feels great," said libero Renzie Pond with a smile. "Just honestly, probably the best thing about this summer. Just such a great opportunity to even have this chance to play. Taking every advantage that we can."
Cross country and football teams also had the green light for opening workouts on Friday. Statewide golfers were actually able to begin on Thursday.
Billings Senior's football players got after it Friday morning at 8:45 a.m. on that familiar Daylis Stadium sprint turf. Like other teams, it was their first of four practices in two days.
"The parents, they're all ready to turn their kids loose, and the kids are ready to turn loose and just have fun and be kids again," said head coach Chris Murdock. "With all the question marks and whether or not it was going to happen, having to adjust the way we do so many things, we've done that. The kids have done a great job of adjusting."