Analysis: How COVID-19 impacts seniors, athletes

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Ryan Stanley

Over the weekend, seniors received their cap and gowns. However, the graduation the class of 2020 imagined may not come to fruition. In the attached analysis piece, assistant editor and columnist Ryan Stanley examines the implications of COVID-19 delays and postponements on the school's athletes.

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I was supposed to walk across the turf of Children’s Health Stadium on Tuesday, Mar. 17, for senior night. I was supposed to buy a suit and party at prom with my friends. I was supposed to walk a stage at The Star on May 23 and shake Principal John Burdett’s hand. Now I’m not so sure no one is sure. But I know one thing, the senior year all of us imaged is not going to happen.

For the athlete or anyone who participates in University Interscholastic League activities such as academics, the impact is even greater. Right now all unfinished athletic contests stand postponed, including these: soccer, tennis, golf, track and field, softball, and baseball. The UIL also reported it’s working on rescheduling all state-level competitions that did not complete seasons. But, staying fit and ready for the uncertain season has become a challenge no one expected to face.

“This season was going to be one to remember, starting off the year 11-2, beating high-level competition really put a damper in the mojo we’ve had in the early going of this season,” senior baseball player Cade Ferguson said. “It has messed with all of our weekly routines getting in lifts, throwing and practice.”

For senior track athlete Natalie Cawley, who tore her ACL, meniscus, FCL and had a bone contusion a week before her first meet junior year, this season was supposed to be her comeback. Cawley does long and triple jump and said she didn’t imagine her track career, which she started in third grade, to end so suddenly.

“I wanted to reach my short- and long-term goals like proving myself that although I had a pretty bad injury, I could still go back to doing what I loved,” Cawley said. “Right before the season, I had a really bad mental block and couldn’t jump into the pit without overthinking it. Although we did have a couple of meets before quarantine, and I did overcome that fear, I still wanted to prove to myself that I could go jump, beat my PRs and reach my goals that I had before my knee injuries.”

Going into spring break, boys soccer was on a seven-game undefeated streak with two games left before playoffs. Now, the team waits for updates about the season and does their best to stay fit.

“With UIL explaining our season has only been delayed not canceled, I am doing everything I can to stay in shape,” senior soccer player Nathan Smith said. “I workout each day on the soccer ball and off. Running and weights have become an almost everyday routine.”

Tennis, golf, softball, baseball and track-and-field athletes face a similar challenge to stay fit. Coaches help by sending workouts for athletes to complete and teammates continue to motivate each other.

“We get in as much as we can with what we’ve got,” Ferguson said. “We hold ourselves accountable through workouts we send to one another, and we continue to try our best to stay connected and motivate one another through this tough time.”

For these senior athletes, the impact of COVID-19 extends off the field. The memories and senior activities they envisioned may no longer be a reality.

“I was prepared to say goodbye to all of my friends, coaches, and teachers at the end of the year, but I definitely wasn’t prepared for it to end so suddenly,” Cawley said. “I’ve been trying to keep a positive mindset about it and that everything happens for a reason, so it might not seem like it now, but there will be good that comes from this experience.”

With social distancing efforts in place, visiting friends as we used to is no longer an option. This is hard to accept, especially for seniors who look forward to this time of year to celebrate their achievements and spend time with friends something they won’t be able to do as much after this year because of college.

“I miss everyone and everything about high school,” Ferguson said. “This semester was going to be one to look forward to, but that’s just how life goes sometimes. I continue to stay positive and hopeful that we will return to PHS and finish off a memorable year.”