There is no doubt that we are in an unusual place right now as a society. At this time, no sports are going on, and it could be the same for the foreseeable future.
Right now I should be finishing up spring sports previews to run in this week’s paper. That’s not happening. Instead, I’m helping out with general news as much as I can to provide quality and informative content for our readers.
When I’m not working on that, I’ve been thinking about area high school seniors and how they are handling things over this past week. With no warning, their high school careers might be over. With so much uncertainty right now surrounding COVID-19, there’s a legitimate chance that there will be no spring sports season this year. At most, it looks as if it would be a shortened season if anything.
As I’ve transitioned from sports, for now, I’ve also been thinking a lot about how I would handle things if I was a senior in this situation. Would I rather just be told now that my high school career is over? Or would I like to hold out hope that there’s a chance of playing part of a season at least? It’s a tough situation for area seniors, and my curiosity got the best of me. I reached out to three area seniors who play spring sports to get their thoughts. I wasn’t surprised at what they had to say. They wanted to play. Even if meant a shortened season.
My first talk was with Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted senior Gracie Mallak. I’ve known for a while that Gracie is a pretty special person with her outlook on life, but her answers to some of my questions just reinforced that even more.
While Mallak, who runs track and field for the Lakers, would be disappointed if there was no season, she knows there are bigger things going on in the world than high school sports.
“As senior student-athletes, we find ourselves in a really weird position right now,” Mallak said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty and a lot of emotions. We know that there are people in the world right now with far bigger issues than whether or not they will get to compete in their last season of high school athletics. Nonetheless, it is still a tough pill to swallow knowing that we may never get the opportunity to compete for one last time wearing our high school uniforms.”
While there has not been an official decision made on spring sports, Mallak hopes the Minnesota State High School League will elect to have a season in some form or another.
“I’ve had a lot of time to think about it, and I keep asking myself, would I rather hear right now that my season was canceled or hold onto hope and find out mid-April that my season was canceled?” Mallak said. “Easy. Neither. I just want to have a season, even if it’s a shortened one. While I sit here wondering if I am going to get the opportunity to compete in my final season for the Lakers, I’ve come to realize that all any of us can do right now is control what we can control. We can control our attitude. We can control our efforts. We can control how we choose to support our teammates. In this uncertain time, I’ve realized that I can keep my head down and continue working hard. I’ve realized that I can stay connected and encourage my teammates via social media. While there are a lot of things that we can’t control, we can control these things.”
While Mallak waits to see if her high school career is over or not, she’s taken the time to put everything into perspective.
“I’ve been challenging myself to look at our current circumstances as an opportunity to reflect on why I decided to get involved in athletics in the first place,” Mallak said. “So far, I’ve realized that I got involved in sports because they were fun. I loved being around my teammates, and I loved to compete. I truly hope that I’ll get one last season to truly embrace all of the reasons that I began my athletic career in the first place. I also understand that if we don’t get our senior season, there’s more to life than running around in circles.”
The same goes for another HLWW senior. Cody Dickhausen, who played two spring sports (baseball and golf) last year, has admitted the past few weeks of uncertainty had been tough.
“It’s been difficult,” Dickhausen said. “Like most athletes, I was supposed to have practiced all last week and this week. I think I can say all the athletes would rather be out with our teams getting ready for the season. I know I’d rather be.”
Dickhausen is also in favor of waiting things out to see if they can play part of a season at the very least.
“I’d rather wait it out and hope for some sort of season,” Dickhausen said. “I’m not sure how it would work. I’d rather try to have any form of a spring season than not have one at all. We’ve all been working our entire high school careers for our senior season and it’d be a shame if some people didn’t get to see their efforts be put into effect. I hope the MSHSL can work something out to still have some type of spring season. Even if it was altered I think it would be better than canceling it altogether.”
The uncertainty has also crept into the mind of Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity senior Alex Heimerl. A three-sport athlete, Heimerl was supposed to have one last go-around in his high school sports career.
“Sitting around my house not doing much has been hard, especially when you get to thinking about things,” Heimerl said. “You kind of start to reminisce about all the things you’ve done up to this point, and it makes you miss the things you love to do so much more. Since the beginning of your senior year, all you think about is one last ride in each sport with all the people that you’ve gotten the closest to. I think I’d give just about anything to throw on the hat and jersey one more time and take the field with some of those guys.”
As a decision on spring sports will likely come in the next week or so, Heimerl hopes they do whatever they can to let him and other seniors play one last time.
“I would kind of like to see them take their time in deciding on what to do,” Heimerl said. “I would be happy just to play a single game if that’s as long as the season needs to be. If spring sports were to happen, I would be pretty darn grateful. I’ve talked to coach quite a bit about it, and I think we both agree that we would be willing to play as short of a season as possible. Just to get that chance to be outside and enjoy this one last ride as a team.”
When that decision comes, no matter what it is, Heimerl hopes that underclassmen realize that high school sports fly by and not to take it for granted.
“To all those underclassmen out there, don’t take your four years of every sport for granted,” Heimerl said. “Getting the chance to think about things over the last week has made me realize how much I miss things like, going to school and walking up and down the halls with your classmates. Cherish the moments you have while you still get the opportunity, you never fully realize how lucky you are until it’s almost over or possibly over.”