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Students Express Excitement and Concerns Regarding the Return of Andover/Exeter

Following a year of hiatus due to Covid-19, Andover/Exeter has returned as an in-person, interscholastic event, scheduled to take place on November 13. Andover students will be traveling to Phillips Exeter Academy, ready to showcase school spirit fueled by the historic rivalry and cheer for varsity volleyball, soccer, field hockey, and football teams.

According to Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life, many aspects of Andover/Exeter will be similar to previous years with some additional Covid-19 precautions taken. Some of the changes will most likely include masking on the bus and for indoor events, though masks may be optional during outside events.

“[Andover and Exeter] Athletic Directors and Medical Directors talk regularly. We knew this has been coming for some time, so we’ve been trying to get ready and prepare. No one wants to spread the virus either way. The truth is, once we’re up there, we really stick with folks from our own school. The closest that we are typically is if there is an indoor volleyball game. But even then, the stands are typically, in regular years, separated by school… Exeter typically fed us in tents outside, so I bet they’ll probably ask us to do that again. We’ll follow all their rules about whether they need us to mask inside,” said Elliott.

Elliott noted how the Covid-19 safety precautions would affect the event on a slight level, with required, but relaxed masking protocols. She also added that most events will be hosted outdoors, decreasing the risk for spread of any virus.

“The plan is that students will not have to test after Andover/Exeter [as] it’s almost the end of the term. However, unvaccinated students or students experiencing symptoms will test. On this front, in terms of the Covid-19 piece, because we’re outside so much [during Andover/Exeter], I don’t feel as worried as I have about other Covid-19 risks that we’ve faced before,” said Elliott.

Even so, many students have expressed concern that the restrictions will stifle the Andover/Exeter experience. Zadia Rutty-Turner ’23 expressed her worries that Andover/Exeter would be less fun due to the restrictions of Covid-19 regulations.

“I know that both us and Exeter have very high vaccination rates, so I’m not really concerned [about] a coronavirus outbreak. [Instead], I’m just more concerned about whether Covid restrictions will make the event feel less authentic than it [has] felt in other years,” said Rutty-Turner.

Despite the worries about Covid-19 complications with Andover/Exeter, many students are excited to see the return of Andover/Exeter. Among these students is Nnenna Okorie ’22, who expressed her excitement especially given that she had been able to attend Andover/Exeter since her Lower year.

“I love cheering. It’s been one of my favorite things as a Blue Key Head. I love cheering and being in the crowd and dressing up for Andover/Exeter, wearing the shirts. We all have the shirts, we all have face paint on and we’re cheering really loudly. I love showing school pride,” said Okorie.

According to Claire Gallou, Instructor in French, Andover/Exeter weekend is a highly anticipated event for many years, in which Andover community members get a chance to showcase their school spirit and alumni can revisit and reconvene with old classmates.

“Andover/Exeter is a very well-known event at the school [and] it’s been [around] for hundreds of years. Students really look forward to it, alumni come back for games, fans want to be on the bus to go to Exeter, and they want to wear their blue makeup and cheer,” said Gallou.

This year, many alumni are planning to return to campus, as they were not able to do so last year. In regards to alumni visiting campus, they are welcome to spend time with their friends in public spaces on campus but are not permitted to enter dorm spaces, according to Elliott.

“I know a lot of alumni are coming back, including the class of 2020, because there wasn’t an A/E last year. I’m excited to visit campus again and not only meet my old classmates but check in with friends who are current students,” said David Owyang ’21.

Emma Jing ’22, despite her excitement about Andover/Exeter, feels that the scheduling of Andover/Exeter on the weekend before final exams is rather inconvenient. However, she notes that this event has historically occurred during Ultimate Week, which may prevent changes in schedule.

“Andover/Exeter has always been something super fun. I think the main concern that I and a lot of other people have is that the timing of it falls right before finals. It sucks sometimes because you have to choose between studying for finals or going. That’s been kind of tough but I don’t know if they would ever change it just because it’s tradition, and Andover/Exeter is where that falls with Abbot. I think it can be tough in terms of figuring out what to do with work,” said Jing.

Rutty-Turner shared a similar sentiment as Jing and commented on the timing of the event. However, she explained how despite these circumstances, Andover/Exeter elevates levels of school spirit and invigorates students.

“I think since Andover/Exeter is during finals, people tend to be really stressed out and tired. But when it comes to Andover/Exeter, everyone is like, ‘Andover? I love Andover. I am Andover. I am big blue.’ There’s a lot of school spirit and it’s good seeing it because it reminds you why you chose to come here,” said Rutty-Turner.