Denny Rivera, Campus Carrier asst. sports editor
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone, and the sporting world is no exception. Practices and games were abruptly cancelled roughly one month into the spring season and both coaches and players are upset about the outcome. Head men’s and women’s tennis coach Clay Hightower expressed his personal feelings about the cancellation.
“As we got further into this, I didn’t have my rhythm of being on the court multiple times a day for hours. I really felt a little bit lost and it was a big adjustment” he said.
The weight of these cancellations affected athletes as well. One of the biggest parts of the cancellation of the 2019-2020 spring season were the seniors who were unable to finish their final year of athletics. Coach Curtis Gilbert, the head men’s lacrosse coach graduated five seniors in the spring. Gilbert is able to relate to the loss of a season due to an unforeseen circumstance.
“We knew that our game at Hendrix was going to be our last” Gilbert said. “We got to share it together, and the reality that these guys wouldn’t be coming back to campus did not set in until two weeks later.”
Senior Idris Mensa-Bonsu of the men’s track and field team was among many of the upperclassmen who could not finish their final season.
“The seniors had worked so hard to achieve something, and to not be able meet those goals and expectations was very depressing” he said. For some of these senior athletes, a strong 2019-2020 season might have led to a professional career, but now they will never know. Luke Syverson, head of the men’s and women’s track and field teams graduated 12 seniors.
“Everyone dreams about their senior year.” Syverson said. “Whether they want to go to conference or qualify for NCAA Championships. To not even have that opportunity, is a pretty drastic change”.
With the loss of the spring season, athletic achievements desired by athletes and coaches alike were unable to be happen. Gilbert had been anticipating an impressive season from his team.
“We’d have liked to return to the conference championships.” Gilbert said. “We’ve been knocking on the door of those championships that would eventually get us to the national tournament.”
Even amidst these trying times however, both coaches and athletes remain positive for their upcoming seasons. Senior Sara Myers of the women’s tennis team is preparing for her new leadership role on her team.
“Because I’m a senior I want to unite the team and focus on our dynamics this season”. she said.
Syverson also expresses his excitement for the track and field’s 2020-2021 season.
“Given all the things with COVID, my hopes are that we are able to improve as athletes and improve as a team.” he said.
Hightower and Gilbert also have high hopes for their seasons. The tennis, lacrosse, and track and field teams are welcoming a number of first-year students to expand their roster and add to the existing talent. Though teams spent months apart, the weight of the cancellation actually provided chances for teams to come closer together. Mensa-Bonsu explained there was at least one upside to all of this.
“Positively though, losing our season gave us something more to share and I became more supportive of my teammates than ever.” Mensa-Bonsu said.
While we have a right to be mad at the loss of our athletics, we cannot forget what is happening on a larger scale. The athletic programs will continue to address issues posed by COVID-19.