Senior athletes react to canceled season

"There is definitely a lack of closure"

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James Kay and Melvin Tate

Sports Editor, Contributing Reporter

On April 21, the IHSA decided to cancel the spring sports season, prematurely ending the high school careers of senior athletes in the area. Melvin Tate and James Kay caught up with some of those athletes from OPRF, Fenwick and Trinity to see how they are dealing with the lost season. Here's what they had to say.

OPRF boys lacrosse

Before the IHSA decided to cancel spring sports, the Huskies tried to hold onto the hope that some form of a season could be held. Head coach Rocco Chierici routinely sent the team workout videos and kept everyone up to date on the developments of the situation.

When the season was eventually canceled, Chierici was proud with how his team took the news.

"You know, we talk about commitment a lot," said Chierici. "Our season doesn't start in March. It really starts with weights in November and then free play in January. These guys worked their butts off. There's still a chance we get summer camp in, but even though that's doubtful, I am just really proud with how [the team] responded and that speaks a lot about who they are as people."

Senior Henry Detmer understands the importance of having closure at the end of the year. He played on the Huskies' football team this past fall and felt the pain of the seniors on the team who won't get a chance to end their time at the school the "right way."

"We didn't even get to play a single game," said Detmer. "I think that's the part that hurts [the seniors on the team] the most. Not having a senior season as a high school athlete is difficult because that is the one you always work for. More than anything, we thought we had a lot left to prove."

OPRF boys tennis

 Before shelter in place protocols became stricter and their courts locked up, OPRF went to Taylor Park to try to stay in shape if the season were to resume. However, that following week, all the tennis courts in the area were closed and the reality of the situation started to hit the team.

"When school got canceled, and it was a week before spring break, I was like, 'Oh, it's basically like two weeks of spring break, and we'll be back,'" said senior Ben Pickering. "But then they started to say that the season could extend into the summer and that's when my faith fell off."

 For Pickering, the lost season stings just a little more due to how last year ended. Him and his doubles partner, Aiden Klass, won two rounds at state last year and ended up losing to the duo who eventually won the state finals.

To ready himself for another postseason run, Pickering practiced eight hours a day over the summer and ran track in the winter to stay in shape. With the season canceled, he won't get a chance to expand on last year's success. However, he is keeping everything in perspective.

 "Yeah, there's definitely a lack of closure," said Pickering. "But you have to put things in perspective. I'm blessed to be in the situation I am in regardless. I have a roof over my head and other people are going through worse circumstances. But there is definitely a lack of closure."

 Fenwick girls soccer

The Friars had high hopes entering this season with many returnees from the 2019 team that reached the Class 2A supersectional where it fell to 4-0 to eventual state champion Benet.

Senior Sheila Hogan missed most of last season due to injury and was looking forward to being a key contributor. 

"I think there's something so special about being a senior leader on a team," said Hogan. "You work so hard for the three years leading up to it just for this moment, so it is devastating this year's season was cut short."

Yet, despite not being able to be around her teammates and classmates, Hogan feels her relationships have grown stronger as a result of the crisis. 

"I think from this pandemic, we have all learned how powerful our relationships with others are," said Hogan. "We all take advantage of the ability to see our friends every day during the school year, and this experience has really put into perspective how much others influence my life."

 Fenwick boys water polo 

 The Friars have long enjoyed a tradition of excellence in boys water polo, as 20 state championships will attest. 

Despite losing nine seniors from last season's team that finished third in the state, Fenwick tends to reload instead of rebuild, and with some key returnees on hand along with some promising younger talent, the Friars figured to make another strong run at the state title. 

"Obviously, I am incredibly bummed out with the season being cancelled", said Fenwick head coach Kyle Perry. "That being said, with the current health situation, I think cancelling the season is the only correct decision. Though we graduated a lot of incredible talented athletes including three that went on to play in college, we also knew that we were returning a very strong group."

Bajda, who had never played water polo before enrolling at Fenwick, was eager to take up a leadership role on the team and wondered what could've been had the season been able to be played.

 "Of the multitude of emotions I am feeling right now, regret best characterizes my feelings," he said. "I regret not being able to try and fulfill my goals, not being able to spend my last few months at Fenwick with my best friends and cherishing every moment with my teammates, and not being able to have closure in my final season as a Friar."

 Trinity track and field 

Blazers' senior Nadia Gonzalez and her teammates were in the midst of the indoor season when COVID-19 put everything on pause. To keep everyone's spirits up, head coach Johann Gonzalez organized regular FaceTime and Zoom video chats to stay connected. But then the announcement came that the IHSA canceled its season, leaving all spring athletes without a sense of closure.

"I was pretty disappointed. I had put a lot of work into the beginning of the season," said Gonzalez. "The other distance girls and I were running in the halls since we don't have a track. We were preparing for our conference meet, but we've been in a waiting game until now."

While disappointed that her high school career is over, Gonzalez realizes that sports is not the priority at this time.

 "I'm trying to keep my head up and stay positive," said Gonzalez. "At the end, all that matters is that we're safe, and eventually we'll be back. Trinity has been doing an amazing job of keeping the seniors together."

Trinity softball 

 First-year head coach Eileen Macey was looking forward to working with a Blazer team that reached the 3A sectionals in 2019. But like the other spring sports, preparations came to a rapid halt due to the pandemic. 

"This year, we had such good team unity and strength in all areas," said Macey. "I felt we could really make an impact this season."

Senior Nicole Romano has been playing softball for about 12 years and felt part of her was taken when the IHSA made its' announcement. But she also knows the pandemic is something no one asked for and that the decision made was wise. 

 "It was hard to deal with, but I understand that this is in no one's control and it's something we all have to deal with," said Romano, who will attend Michigan State and play club softball. "I thought we were going to be a force to be reckoned with this year, and it's unfortunate. I miss being around my team; they're like sisters to me."

 Trinity has tentatively rescheduled its' prom and graduation ceremony for this summer. While both Parker and Romano appreciate the opportunity to still have those cherished moments, those events will have a different meaning. 

"You watch all the seniors in front of you for three years and they get to do all the events that honor them," Romano said. "Then you finally get there, and (the pandemic) happens. The events get taken away at first and then (rescheduled), but they don't feel the same."

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Reader Comments

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Jim Frenkel  

Posted: April 29th, 2020 8:47 AM

With a high school athlete in our home, we heard first hand about the emotional impact of this decision -- the right one-- over the past several weeks. Our hearts go out to the many seniors who didn't get a chance to finish out their high school experience after so many years of hard work. Thanks for this touching human interest story.

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