Spring is supposed to be the most exciting time for a high school athlete. Spring sports should be underway with more pleasant weather showing and outdoor practices becoming the highlight of the day. Graduation is approaching, with some looking forward to collegiate sports.
This year, it’s all been thrown into upheaval thanks to the fallout of the new coronavirus (COVID-19) that’s thrown the sports world to a standstill. Starting with the absence of fans at the boys state basketball championships a little over a week ago, everything else has since been paused.
And for the forseeable future.
That’s shortening, if not cancelling, spring sports for athletes all around the area: track and field, soccer, softball, baseball and tennis.
“I know everyone else is upset about it too, but they can use it to motivate themselves for next year,” Central DeWitt senior track athlete Crystal Burke said. “But for the seniors, this is it. This is all we have left. Even if we are going to run in college, this was our last year with our team, with our coach, and in our Saber uniforms.”
“We’re all pretty devastated about this,” Clinton senior thrower Kimberly Powell said. “As a senior, I know I have more to look forward to in college so my career isn’t completely over but it kind of sucks that it’s all been stripped from us.”
The worst part might be the fact that no one knows quite yet what will happen as the state and the country deal with the unprecedented crisis.
For now, the state of Iowa is still in a mandatory four-week school closure that runs through April 12. After that, the state will reevaluate according to the state of public health, and it seems likely that activities will continue to be postponed.
“Being a senior this year it is very hard and I’ve cried so much these past couple weeks because there has just been a lot of uncertainty with all of this,” Central DeWitt track athlete Hannah Payne said. “The uncertainty of not knowing if I’ll get a senior season in one of my favorite sports or if I’ll even be able to walk across the stage and receive my diploma.”
Although the cancellation of college spring seasons through the remainder of the year makes it look grim, these athletes are still looking forward. They’re all participating in solo workouts at home and outside in order to stay in shape just in case things can resume.
Runners are running. Throwers are working on technique. Softball players are picking up any heavy item they can in order to get weight lifting in.
It’s still tough.
“Very hard,” Fulton softball player and track athlete Emily Schipper said. “I’m so used to moving all the time and competing almost everyday, [and now] doing nothing.”
One thing athletes are grappling with is college. For Northeast senior Grant Rickertsen, who placed in two individual hurdle events last year, senior track season was invaluable to his college decisions. Now, he’s not sure if he’ll get the chance to put on a uniform again.
“My thinking all along was the only way i would do a sport in college would have been if i had received a Division I offer to run track,” Rickertsen said. “Some Division I colleges have shown interest but it was really up to this year for them to decide to offer a scholarship or not. Without the track season to prove to colleges my potential and what I can do the chances of that have turned pretty slim.”
Kimberly Powell, one of Clinton girls’ only state qualifiers last season, knows she’s going to continue her throwing career in college. It’s still bothering her that she has no idea what’s happening in this time.
If she does get to come back and compete for a shortened period of time, she knows it will be difficult but she won’t take the time for granted.
“I hope we can have part of our season back,” Powell said. “I know it will be different and definitely be hard. It’ll take a lot of heart, we have to put our strength into this, and be our best.”
That time back, no matter how short, will be especially crucial for students who know they will not be continuing their athletic careers. Clinton tennis player Andrew Brisch will be done with sports when this year ends and that’s making this activity furlough difficult.
“It does make it harder knowing that I might not be able to play competitive tennis again especially with the people I grew up playing with,” Brisch said. “I started playing tennis when I was five years old so I’ve been playing this sport for as long as I can remember. So it’s pretty hard not being able to step on the court and play with my teammates.”
With the the efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus continuing, there’s still hope. So far the plan is still to reconvene in April and decide the fate of spring sports. That means there’s a chance that these seniors will get to play one more time.
“My hope for this track season is that after four weeks I can be back out on the track with my team and continue my hard work to make it all the way to state,” DeWitt’s Hannah Payne said. “Same goals I had at the beginning of the season, just with a few curves this time.”
And Grant Rickertsen: “I remain optimistic and train just as if the season had never stopped. For the chance of the season to resume and to do well at state.”
There’s definitely a lot to be determined still, but none of the seniors are quite ready to give up. They keep training and keep waiting.
“We just have to keep going and moving forward,” Clinton’s Kimberly Powell said. “We have to make the best of it and keep pushing forward if we want to succeed.”
And most of all, they’ve learned lessons along the way that will stick with them a lifetime.
“Always cherish memories with coach and teammates,” Fulton’s Emily Schipper said. “Always be thankful you are able to compete.”