Joshua Mabry, Campus Carrier Asst. Sports Editor
While many Berry students, faculty and staff were at home celebrating Thanksgiving with their families and friends, the football team and sports medicine staff were getting traveled to Belton, Texas to take on the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
This season is the second year in a row that the Vikings have been in the postseason and had to travel over Thanksgiving break.
Head Football Coach Tony Kunczewski said that even though it can be difficult, he considered it a blessing that the team was still practicing over Thanksgiving.
“We’re certainly not complaining,” Kunczewski said. “When you’re on a football team and you’re practicing during Thanksgiving week, that’s usually a good season.”
However, keeping a team on campus during Thanksgiving week is difficult from a logistics standpoint, according to Kunczewski.
When Berry’s dining locations closed Tuesday afternoon, the team and staff struggled to find local restaurants that could accommodate 135 people for meals.
According to NCAA restrictions, only 58 players are allowed to dress out and travel with the team. The players who did not travel got to go home and be with their families on Wednesday of Thanksgiving week after practice.
Kunczewski said that Thanksgiving is one of his favorite holidays because it combines two things he loves: family and football, though he misses family when he isn’t home on Thanksgiving.
Junior linebacker Brandon Palmer said that spending Thanksgiving weekend on the road was different from what he is accustomed to.
“It’s a little weird not being home for Thanksgiving,” Palmer said. “But it was definitely a cool experience.”
Though Palmer missed eating Thanksgiving dinner with his family, he said it was beneficial for he and the team to be compete on a national level and represent Berry. Assistant Athletic Trainer Kathleen Duncanson traveled with team for sports medicine. She said that even though she missed being at home with her family, this kind of situation is not unusual for her. Before coming to Berry, she worked at a Division I (DI) college, where the regular athletic season always extends over Thanksgiving weekend.
Duncanson said that she considers the football team to be her second family and that it was fun to spend Thanksgiving with them.
“We spend more time with them than we do our friends and our actual family members,” Duncanson said. “It doesn’t really feel out of the ordinary to spend a holiday with them.”
According to Duncanson, the team used the trip as an opportunity to form stronger bonds with one another. They left a day earlier than they normally would for this bigger trip to provide extra time together as a team before the game on Saturday.
Duncanson said that Ted’s Montana Grill, a restaurant in Atlanta, provided the team with a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, carrots, green beans, stuffing and dessert.
Additionally, if any of the players or sports medicine students had family who had also traveled to Texas, they were allowed to spend the evening and have dinner with them, according to Duncanson.
Junior Meghan Kelly, student sports medicine football team leader, said that she got to go home and spend the evening with her family before flying to Texas with the team.
Kelly said that students who went home for the day to be with their families had to meet the team back at the hotel at 11 p.m. Thursday.
After reaching the second round of playoffs for the second year in a row, Berry ended their record-breaking season after a 75-9 loss against Mary Hardin-Baylor. Their final record was 10-2.
Despite the loss, the Vikings can hold up their three back-to-back SAA Conference Championship wins and look forward to picking back up next fall.