Photo by Bre Rogers/HutchCC Sports Information: HutchCC Blue Dragon Baseball team cheers on player Drew Reetz.

By Sam Bailey and Jake Brown / Staff Writers

2020 has already engraved itself in memories forever, and the world has only seen three months of the year. 

With the latest news of spring sports being canceled worldwide, the NJCAA was left to decide the fate of thousands of athletes across the nation.

The cancellations of the spring seasons left athletes at Hutchinson Community College feeling the impact of COVID-19.

“It sucks, spring is a great time to self-evaluate for the upcoming season… I am bothered by not playing football right now,” freshman football player Kingsley Ugwu said. 

Football wasn’t the only sport feeling the impact of the loss of a season.

While basketball was able to play the majority of their season, they were robbed of arguably the most important time of the year. 

“It’s upsetting that we put so much hard work into having a great season and we don’t have the chance to play for the national championship,” said freshman women’s basketball player, Presley Barton.

While football lost their spring season and basketball got the promise of a chance to win a national championship stolen, some sports didn’t even get that lucky. 

Softball, baseball, outdoor track-and-field, and golf all got their seasons torn away from them when the announcement went out that all athletic events were to be suspended for the remainder of the season.

“Like all the other spring sports, the golf team and myself were extremely disappointed with having our season cut short because of what is going on with the pandemic. We may have had the best team we have ever had at HutchCC in my 20 years,” said Blue Dragons golf coach Chris Young.

Along with golf, the Blue Dragon’s softball team was having a promising year that was ripped away from them. They were 18-6 and owned a rare win against perennial power Butler.

“I am really sad that our season got taken away because this is one of the best teams I have ever been on,” sophomore softball player Ashley Wilson said. “I had so much fun with all the girls. It is more than just softball.”

On March 13, the NJCAA gave spring athletes a light at the end of this dark tunnel. They announced they will not charge spring sport athletes a year of eligibility due to the coronavirus. The NAIA and NCAA have followed with similar announcements.

Spring athletes had what were some of their safe spaces ripped away from them in a time of darkness and confusion, but at least they will be able to work toward their next year of eligibility, knowing that this one wasn’t forfeited. 

“In terms of what we can see for me this coming fall is the continuation of me playing the best golf I can, to get the best results that I can, as well as always trying to better myself to be able to be in the three or four years time,” sophomore golfer Charlie Crockett said.

As far as using the extra year of eligibility, many athletes are faced with a difficult choice as to what they should do for the coming year.

While she doesn’t know where she will be next year, “I do plan on using the extra year,” Wilson said.

Baseball coach Ryan Schmidt advised student-athletes to prioritize their education during their time away.

“We can’t lose sight of our academic responsibility,” Schmidt said. “If we can play summer ball that’s great, but we need to finish this semester academically first.”

Softball coach Jaime Rose, while discussing the future and well being of student-athletes, also mentioned academics.

“Our plan going forward is to do the things we would normally do,” Rose said. “We will obviously have to adapt some of those things along the way. Finding ways to help our athletes from a distance both academically and athletically is our number one priority.”

A future without the COVID-19 pandemic seems distant for many athletes and coaches, but there is still hope in the tightly-woven athletic community at HutchCC. 

The loss of a season can be heart-wrenching, the coaches said, but athletes must stay strong and look to a better future, one day at a time. 

“Obviously, we were heartbroken, just like every player and coach in America, but we understand why it had to happen,” Rose said. “I think Bonnie Tholl, assistant coach at the University of Michigan, said it best. ‘It may not have been their choice, but sacrificing their season could be the single finest moment in their collegiate careers – possibly saving a life. Perspective is difficult so soon, but it can help in reframing the heartache.’”

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