There were no fans permitted at Saturday's state gymnastics meet in Muncie, due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus.
That didn't stop parents of the Bishop Dwenger gymnasts from gathering to support their team. They held a send-off at Dwenger early in the morning Saturday to wish the athletes luck before they departed and in the afternoon gathered at Mitchell's Sports Bar and Grill for a watch party, streaming the IHSAA's online video feed on to a large TV in a room at the restaurant.
“For us, it's just the spirit of the team, the school, you know, we're a family,” said Marcy Doyle, mother of Emma Doyle. “So we stick together through all of this. ... Everybody's there supporting everybody else. To be here, it's nerve-wracking. This is probably all of our first meet that we've ever missed of our own daughter since they've been in gymnastics, so it's hard. But at the same time, we're here supporting each other, too.”
The room was set up like any NCAA Tournament early-round watch party, with multiple screens – a large main TV, a smaller TV and a laptop – set to different events. On the wall below the TV were hand-made signs with the names of the team's gymnasts written in gold glitter and balloons in the Saints' gold and navy colors.
There was plenty of chatter among parents and team managers, who were also unable to attend the meet and went to the watch party instead. When a Saint gymnast prepared to compete in an event, however, the room grew almost completely silent. Loud applause broke out for a good performance.
The families had the option of watching the meet by themselves at home, but there is comfort in the group, according to Kelly Boatright, mother of Elise Boatright.
“Oh my gosh, because who's going to cry with us,” Boatright said, laughing, when asked why her family decided to come to the event. “I can't imagine being home by myself watching this, I would be a nervous wreck.”
“My husband was like, 'I just want to sit there and stew at home alone, but I'll come and be with everybody else,'” Doyle added. “Whereas us moms, we want to be together, cheering each other on”, just as they would be if they were in the stands at the meet.
One fan who did watch from home was Saints head coach Rosemarie Nix. Bishop Dwenger has more than the number of coaches permitted to attend the meet, so Nix volunteered to stay behind. She is also battling breast cancer – the Saints have shirts that read “Fight Like a Girl” in her honor – and stayed home to be cautious because cancer and its treatments can cause a weakened immune system and make people more susceptible to COVID-19.
Nix set up a projector screen to watch the live stream and attended the 6:30 a.m. send-off, getting teary-eyed as the bus rolled away.
“We're cheering like we're there,” the coach said. “I'm sad I'm not there, but you have to look at the positives. That's what we try to teach the kids every day.”
Nix said the toughest part for her was not being around to give the few words of encouragement or advice that a coach usually provides right before an event.
Marcy Doyle had a similar view.
“This is way worse than being there in person,” Doyle said. “When you're there, at least you can yell their name and they might hear you. ... When you're here, you're helpless, you're totally helpless.”
Still, the parents took comforting in knowing that the Saints still felt supported, even if from a distance.
“Having a senior daughter, it's really tough knowing it's her last time to compete, her last time in a big arena like that,” said Michele Landstoffer, mother of Rachel Landstoffer. “But we're just so grateful that she was still able to compete this week, even though we have to watch it from far away, we're still all with the team.”