It was just a week ago when things were normal, with a typical spring break schedule occurring.
Softball teams were playing district games.
Baseball teams were about to compete in their final tournaments before getting into district play on a full-time basis.
The end of the soccer season was right around the corner and there was jockeying for playoff seeding.
Powerlifters were preparing for the regional meet with state coming in the next few weeks.
The home stretch for golfers, tennis players and track athletes to be at their peak for district competition was set to start.
And then, in an instant, the high school sports world in Texas — much like the larger athletic universe around the globe — came to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The University Interscholastic League suspended all competition for two weeks, essentially through the end of the month, and three days later extended that ban to all activities — practices, workouts and use of any school facility. Three days after that, the past Thursday, the UIL said the first possible date for games to return would be May 4, wiping out the entire month of April as an option.
School districts which had shut down for an extra week added another week on top of that. Then this week came word that the earliest most would re-open was April 6 — a date that seems highly optimistic and almost assured to be push back again.
And so now everyone waits for what’s next, if there can even be a next part of the spring sports season. The ones affected the most are the seniors in just about every way and there are questions beyond athletics. Will there be a prom? Will there be a graduation ceremony?
Every school sits in suspended animation. The weight room is silent. The ball fields are empty.
The last time the UIL was forced to shut down all of its activities was during the swine flu outbreak in late April of 2009. The plan was similar to this one — a two-week break before resumption of a condensed schedule to give all sports a chance to finish with a champion crowned.
This, obviously, does not feel the same and is proving not to have any comparison in recent memory, let alone seen in generations. For the seniors wishing to play their final game or compete one last time while hoping they didn’t already do so without knowing it, there has been a range of reaction.
Here are the thoughts of a handful of Texoma senior athletes:
Bri Carr, Gunter: “As a senior track athlete who hasn’t been able to compete with my teammates, it hurts my heart in a time like this. Something so far out of our control took away something we once took for granted and that was getting to play sports and compete. A time like this has really opened my eyes and made me realize that not everything we have in life is promised. I think what hurts the most is not knowing whether or not we will be able to compete again whether that be district, area or regionals. Especially because I have made trips to Whitehouse the past couple of years being apart of the Gunter girls’ varsity mile relay and we are only improving to try and make it even further this last year a couple of us have wearing a Gunter uniform. I’m hoping we still get to run one last time.”
Jack Condit, Denison: “As a team and personally, we were extremely excited for the 2020 baseball season, and with our seven seniors, and good talent, our team had a united belief that this was our year to make a deep run in the playoffs. Everyone on the team has played together since the age of 5, and we were all looking forward to playing one last season together, and making our coaches, families, and community proud. This has been an emotional time for our team, because baseball is our passion. I believe that we are more of a brotherhood than a team this year; everybody wants to see each other succeed, and we continue to pray that we will have an opportunity to play one more time before our senior year ends.”
Zoe Sprayberry, Bells: “I feel like this year of sports is heartbreaking because I am losing a lot of my last high school tennis season. I understand it’s for an important cause, but I wish my senior year of tennis could have been full and I am very saddened for many other seniors in a sport.”
Gage Smith, Sherman: “My personal favorite event is long jump. I made it to area last year and was really hoping to make it further this year, but that’s been taken away from me and other kids with the same dreams. Seniors across the nation who grew up playing these sports and playing it with their childhood friends are losing those special moments. I know that we are trying to take precautions so the epidemic doesn’t spread, but it is very sad to see these last few moments of a student’s senior year be stripped away.”
Keanu Hall, Denison: “Being a senior this year and having to experience everything that we’re going through has been a tough time. It hurts to think that we might have had our last at-bat, our last out, and even our last time crossing home plate. Growing up it’s always been a dream to finally walk out proud in front of family and friends on graduation night, and even our Senior Night. My only wish is to just get one last game in on our home field, even if it’s truly going be my last.”
Carrie Johnson, Collinsville: Going through high school, I constantly heard the remark from past players, coaches, and more often than not, my parents, ‘Don’t take it for granted. It’s over before you know it.’ Though I listened to these words and tried to heed them, I never thought that the last season of my senior year would be taken away in an event completely out of my control. I always thought I would finish my senior year with a few tears and a smile, having known I gave everything I had to the sports that I loved. The only solace I have in these hard times is that I know the cancellation and suspension of the spring seasons is necessary in order to prevent further outbreak; but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t break my heart. The special moments of playing catch with my freshman sister on the high school field and cheering when she gets a hit have been cut short drastically, but I know when we have the opportunity to step onto the field again that we will soak in every moment.”
Haylee Boren, Whitesboro: “When my doubles partner and I walked off the court last week we were talking about how we could practice and improve before district. I never imagined it could possibly be my last time competing for the year. On a positive note, it has taught me how to appreciate every moment more. You never know how quick things can end. Even though this is sad to think about, I am still very hopeful and eager for the future, and thankful for the lessons I have been able to learn in the past years of high school athletics.”
Nancy Castorena, Gunter: “Throughout this time I am trying my absolute best to look forward, think positive and keep working my absolute hardest to achieve dreams and goals set for this track season. It is a very emotional time knowing that on March 5 could’ve very well been my last time lacing up my track spikes and passing that baton around the track with my teammates. As I look back at the journey I think of all the happiness, sadness and hardships this sport has brought but I’d do it 1,000 times over and over again because the love I have for my teammates for this program and for my coaches and for this sport is indescribable. I don’t want this to be our ‘goodbye’ because I truly believe our story is not over. Right now all we can do is hope for the best, remain faithful and look forward to hopefully getting the opportunity to run last time.”
Luke Kirkbride, Denison: “You know I’m really bummed, but it just puts an emphasis on the phrase ‘play every game like it’s your last game.’ I had no idea that twp weeks ago against Rider would possibly be my last game of high school baseball and it’s really hitting hard now. But all I can do and the team can do is get their individual work in, get better, pray and hope for the best. Hopefully we will be able to legitimately play our last game of high school baseball in the upcoming months.”
Hannah Williams, Whitewright: “I’m struggling with not knowing whether I’ll get my senior season, even though I know I get four more years to play in college, there’s just something about high school softball that makes me want my last season. As a senior athlete, we want our last moments on the field as a team. And I know a lot of us aren’t finished yet. We want to finish together.”