Class of 2021: Lincoln High School senior athlete pushes on despite COVID-19

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In 'Class of 2021,' FOX40 will follow a group of students whose senior year was upended by the coronavirus pandemic, documenting their challenges and accomplishments.

LINCOLN, Calif. (KTXL) — Under the lights and a cool fall night in Lincoln, senior JT Willis was getting in his last bit of work on the baseball field during an otherwise busy day for the three-sport athlete.

“Go straight from 3:30 to 5:30, 5:45 football practice, and then drive over here and get ready. Try to get a little snack in and then I have baseball from 6:30 to 8:30,” Willis said, explaining his day.

Willis said he is determined to play football, baseball and basketball for the Fighting Zebras all within a six-month period because of the condensed high school sports seasons in California.

His workouts right now for baseball and football are just in preparation for when practice officially begins in December.  

“Just in a regular year, it’s difficult. I mean, you’ve got to maintain your grades,” said Lincoln High School baseball coach Mike Ratliff. “You’ve got to be conditioned for three different sports, which — let’s face it — at the high school level you’re preparing a lot more than when we played.”

“I just like to compete. Just getting out there and competing is what it’s all about,” Willis said. “I don’t know, I just like to be doing something. I don’t like just sitting there. When I’m sitting there, I feel bored and I don’t like feeling bored, so I’d rather go be active.” 

In the past month, Lincoln High School returned to on-campus learning five days a week.

That means Willis’ day starts from 8 a.m. until about 12:30 p.m.

It also gives him hope that things are slowly now getting back to normal.

“It’s good to see that we are back at school,” the senior athlete said. “I mean, I think that’s probably the biggest point. If we were staying at home all year, then I don’t know if we’d even have a football season.”

Willis is not one to waste any hours in his day. He uses his time between school and football practice to prepare his body for the physical demands of playing three sports in a short amount of time.

“I put on 25 pounds from last season, so feeling pretty good. I didn’t lose any speed, I just increased my weight. It feels good,” he said.

“He’s going to be worn out by the time he graduates this year,” Ratliff said with a chuckle.

Assuming things stay on schedule, high schools across the state can begin full-contact football practice on Dec. 7.

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