Their high school gym was a shelter for storm evacuees. Many haven't had power to their homes in more than a week. Some haven't been home at all, thanks to the destruction on the barrier island.
But Central Regional's high school sports teams are back on the playing fields, even as their towns try to clean up from the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. The boys and girls soccer teams and its field hockey team took to the fields on Tuesday for first-round games of the state playoffs. The football team is scheduled to play Sunday.
It was not a move favored by administrators or coaches.
"Personally I'm ticked at the NJSIAA," said Dr. Triantafillos "Tom" Parlapanides, superintendent of the Central Regional School District. "We were told we had to play or we would forfeit. It is unfair. Some of these kids' lives are in ruins."
Like so many areas, power has yet to be fully restored. Trees and power lines remain down. The high school served as a shelter for a week, from the time its power was restored on Nov. 2 until late this week, because the middle and high school classes were canceled due to all the issues with downed trees and power lines.
The challenges went deeper, however. Students have been displaced from their homes, particularly those living on the barrier island, both with Berkeley's South Seaside Park and Pelican Island sections, and in the sending districts of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park. Some left at the last minute, with just the clothes on their backs.
"I have four kids who still don't have electricity," said Madeline Dutton, coach of the field hockey team. "I had to give them uniforms and sticks."
"This is ridiculous," said John Truhan, head coach of the girls basketball team and assistant head coach of the girls soccer team, as the Eagles beat Burlington Township, 8-1.
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body of high school athletics in New Jersey, on Monday announced that the state playoffs in fall sports would proceed, and laid out a schedule for completion of games and the tournaments. Steve Timko, executive director of the NJSIAA, said the decision to move forward was based on input from its member schools that indicated most were eager to play.
"Those schools that are able to participate in regular season games are certainly free to do so," Timko said in a letter to NJSIAA member schools posted on the NJSIAA website. "At the same time, our membership should recognize that many other schools are simply unable to compete, so games should be canceled or rescheduled accordingly."
The athletes, however, seemed relieved to be able to take a break from the difficulties facing their hometown to play their sports.
"It felt good to be with the team again," said Hannah Crick, a member of the field hockey team, which beat East Windsor 2-1 on a last-minute goal by Madison Simons.
"We were all a family again," said Amanda Oris, whose family had to leave their home after it flooded. "We had 18 inches of water," she said.
"I was not in favor of it," Dutton said, "but the kids wanted to do it."
"Once we got here, it was the right thing," Dutton said.
Lizzy Kroon, one of the captains of the girls soccer team, said coming together was good for them as well.
"It was good to see everyone," she said, "and know everyone was OK, that everyone had made it out."
At the same time, she said, "it's a privilege to play. I'm proud to represent what a great community Berkeley is."
"We were happy to be together again and have something to focus on," said Kristee Paknis, the head coach of the girls soccer team. "Some of these girls had some damage to their homes."
"It can give the town something to rally around," Parlapanides said.