The lights came on at Clarky Clark Athletics Complex in Dixon Thursday night for the first time this season. But the atmosphere wasn’t the normal one for this time of the year. The sounds of cheering crowds and upbeat music was absent. The smell of fresh cut grass and pork chop sandwiches was missing. There were no players on the field and no coaches in the dugouts.
Exactly 20 minutes and 20 seconds (20:20) after they came on, the lights went out and left the fields and tennis court shrouded in darkness.
School officials lit up Clarky Clark and Trojans Field Thursday night in honor of all of the spring athletes, but especially the class of 2020 who should be halfway through their senior seasons at this point.
The last time the Webster County took to the field was May 18, 2019 in the semifinal round of the Region Two softball tournament against the Lyon County Lady Lyons. That 2-1 upset spoiled the Lady Trojans’ plans of making it to the state softball tournament, but wet their appetite for the 2020 season.
Nobody had any idea that they might never get that chance. The Lady Trojans were supposed to host the Henderson County Lady Colonels in a district rivalry game on Friday night. Of course that didn’t happen.
On March 13, the Kentucky High School Athletics Association (KHSAA) placed all springs sports into a “Coronavirus dead period.” The original prohibition extended through Sunday, April 12, but was since extended through May 1.
At this point it seems unlikely that schools will get the green light to play even a small portion of their remaining games this season, which will leave a big hole in the record books.
For fans, missing out on those games that will never be made up is a big deal, but there is always next season. For the class of 2020, that’s another story.
Athletes work from a very young age to hone their skills and to become the best they can be on the field. The hometown crowd becomes like an extended part of the family.
While athletes will go on to continue their career at the collegiate level, their is something about that final high school game that none of them will ever forget.
Ask anyone who ever played high schools sports and they can probably tell you all about their last game. Even if they don’t remember the final score, they remember lacing up their cleats and running out into the dust. They remember the smell in the air and the sound of crowd when their name was called one final time over the speakers above the field where they had spent the bulk of their high school (and middle school in some cases) career.
Win or lose, they remember walking back in the dugout that last time, turning to take one last look out at the field while the dust is still hanging thick in the air, and mentally marking that moment as one they will never forget.
The class of 2020 may never get that chance, and while that may seem trivial to some, for an 18-year-old who has dedicated their life to the pursuit of perfection on the field, it will leave a hole in their memories that they will never be able to fill.
But, many of the seniors at WCHS are taking the loss of their senior season better than might be expected.
“Since I started playing high school softball in 6th grade, I have been waiting for the time I get to play my senior year and have a senior night, so to not be able to participate in those events is a huge let down,” said softball player Hadlee Carter. “I hope the younger players never take being able to play their sport for granted.”
Carter was not alone. Denaleigh Starks was one WCHS athlete who was looking forward to the spring season, perhaps more than anyone else. She is the defending state shot put champion.
“I miss school and being able to act goofy with my friends and I miss track and my team and I always encouraging each other,” said Starks. “And us being so amazed with what I do and how hard I’m willing to work in order to reach my full potential. It’s also shown me that I need to be grateful for the opportunity I was given because not many are given that chance. Like I said before I’m blessed. The Covid-19 epidemic is an very eye opening experience to demonstrate just that.
Lady Trojan senior Marissa Austin got her chance to enjoy her senior season on the basketball court, but the multi-sport athlete had been looking forward to finishing off her senior year on the tennis court.
“I run and workout everyday preparing myself for my basketball season this year at Oakland City University,” Austin said. “It’s heartbreaking thinking that last year at state may have been my last time playing tennis as a Lady Trojan. I love playing tennis and I was really hoping to return to state again this year. Everyday it feels like I’m more likely not to play as a Lady Trojan, but tennis might not be over for me. OCU tennis coach has talked to me and nothing is set in stone because basketball is my scholarship and my top priority but if the opportunity there was to present itself I would play. This experience has made me realize how much I do love tennis and how I’m not ready to give it up just yet.”
Senior Hayden Nunn hopes this teaches everyone not to take life for granted.
“My mindset is to just stay positive and pray that just not me but millions around the world get to experience their last year of sports,” said Nunn, a member of the baseball team. “This has hit me very personally because I’m thankful my father showed me this sport when I was only three years old. So this sport has been a part of me since Pee-Wee ball. All I can say for future seniors coming in next year is, play every game like it is your last, because like me and millions around the world, we may never get to experience their name get called walking up to the plate, or experience senior night with their friends and family, so never take anything for granted and keep playing your heart out.”
But while the 2020 spring season may or may not happen, many of the seniors are taking advantage of the break to enjoy special time of a different sort.
“At first I was extremely upset because I was excited for the season and seeing what all we could accomplish as a team, but the more time I’ve had to think about it, I realize it had to happen and there’s nothing that could change what has happened,” said Cater. “On the bright side, I have been able to spend a lot more quality time with my family and it has made me appreciate softball more than ever before.”
Nunn is hoping the break will give him a chance to play in the future, even if this season never happens.
“Luckily for me, I’ve had the chance to speak to some colleges about possible chances of playing,” he said. “Usually I will workout and try to stay in shape so when the times comes I will be ready for the opportunity.”
For now everything is on hold, awaiting final word on the fate of the season. But some of Webster County’s best and brightest aren’t going to let even a global pandemic slow them down.
Contact Matt Hughes at firstname.lastname@example.org or 270-667-2069