For any who may have still been holding onto hope, in desperation, even after Kansas Governor Laura Kelly’s press conference on Tuesday afternoon, the Kansas State High School Activities Association officially put a cap on it late Wednesday.
In a release, KSHSAA declared that “in response to Governor Kelly’s Executive Order regarding the closure and cessation of in-person instruction in all Kansas schools through May 29, 2020, the KSHSAA is cancelling all spring championships, competitions, and festivals for the remainder of this school year.”
With a constantly growing trail of devastation across the plane of sports in general throughout the country, it wasn’t an unexpected message, but still was a difficult one to swallow for the coaches and athletes of spring sports.
Emporia High was setting up to participate in girls swimming and diving, girls soccer, baseball, softball, boys tennis, boys golf and track and field.
“We didn’t think was a very good outlook yesterday after the governor had her press conference,” EHS Head Baseball Coach Anthony Markowitz said. “But things have just been changing every day. I don’t know too many people anywhere that have been through a time like this and circumstances like this. Obviously the kids are really upset, we had a lot of high aspirations for this season, seven seniors and seven returning starters, I just feel bad for those guys. I feel bad, not for wins or losses or any of that stuff, just the experiences that they’re missing out on and being able to share with each other.”
Markowitz, as well as Troy Chapman, the Spartans’ softball coach, both had reached the state tournament a year ago and with a senior-laden roster, had hopes of returning with more experience and potential firepower on the field.
But when the NCAA proactively cut down its spring sports seasons across the country last week, Markowitz knew his group would probably be next.
“We were trying to look on the bright side of things, maybe they’d keep pushing it back as long as they can to see how this thing goes,” he said. “The bad outlook was always in the back of my mind, but ... it was just like every single day there was something else that happened that kind of crushed that optimism. There’s nothing anybody can do, there’s no one really to be upset with, it’s just unfortunate and ... heartbreaking for the kids.”
Chapman also is feeling the bitter bite, perhaps, more than some. One of his softball seniors is his own daughter, Mya, who anchored a budding lineup that wanted to build off its growing success as juniors.
“I’m crushed,” Chapman said. “Especially for these seniors, but for all of the girls. A lot of them have worked especially hard to make themselves better athlete, better people, better students. It’s just unfortunate, it really is.
“They had some big goals set for themselves and they were wanting to put together a season like they had last year and even better that. There’s so many important things that happen your senior year. Each and every one of them had goals, individual goals, team goals, that they wanted to improve on from last year. Just not getting the chance to entertain those is just ... strange.”
As closings spread throughout sports at all levels, the writing on the wall was growing emboldened with each passing day that it hadn’t been declared official.
“I figured that we were next,” Chapman said. “But still, figuring that you’re next (to be canceled) and hearing it as finality is a couple different things. And it’s not just us. It’s every high school student, every middle school student, across the world is dealing (with), is trying to sort through this.”
“It’s just tough. It’s just tough. There’s no other way to describe it, really.”
Markowitz continues to hold onto hope that the summer legion team, as its schedule is even further down the road, may have a fighting chance to play on the backside of this viral curve that is projected to play out.
Hope, though a dying force in some circles, is all he’s clinging to, though most of the players overlap, it still won’t be the same as potentially playing for a trophy to be displayed in the corridors of Emporia High.”
“Optimism is really all we’ve got right now,” Markowitz said. “We’re holding onto it and I think we’ve got to remain optimistic athletics-wise, just as a community and a nation, really. And do everything we can to get us back to normalcy. Legion baseball is different. They’re not representing the high school, being regional champs or whatever we could have accomplished is something they’re not going to be able to do.
“It’s uncharted waters. I just hope there’s an outside chance we get to play in the summer together. It’s really just about the experiences those kids are missing out on. That’s what we all feel really bad about. (This) hasn’t ever happened before and we’ve all been able to have (the traditional) kinds of experiences ourselves. This is the only group that’s getting the really bad end of the stick.”
Tovar, Gilpin awarded postseason recognition
Emporia High senior Mya Tovar and sophomore Gracie Gilpin were both awarded honorable mention recognition when the Centennial League announced their All-League team in girls basketball this week.
Topeka High sophomore NiJaree Canady was the league’s Player of the Year and among the five first-teamers. Also on the list were Canady’s Trojan teammate freshman Kiki Smith, who also garnered Newcomer of the Year honors. Washburn Rural senior Kasey Hamilton, Manhattan senior Zanaa Cordis and Seaman senior Chloe Carter all earned first-team accolades, as did Seaman junior Camryn Turner
Seaman coach Matt Tinsley was named the league’s Coach of the Year.
Emporia High finished its campaign with a 9-12 record.
Centennial League First Team
NiJaree Canady (10) – Topeka High
Chloe Carter (12) — Seaman
Zanaa Cordis (12) – Manhattan
Kasey Hamilton (12) – Washburn Rural
Kiki Smith (9) – Topeka High
Camryn Turner (11) – Seaman
Dariauna Carter (12) – Highland Park
Brooklyn DeLeye (9) – Washburn Rural
Emma Krueger (10) – Washburn Rural
Miyah Larson (12) – Topeka West
Sophia Purcell (12) – Hayden
Lilly Smith (11) – Topeka High
Mellana Davis (11) – Junction City
Gracie Gilpin (10) – Emporia
Ariyana Grassity (12) – Topeka High
JaNeysha Hendricks (11) – Topeka High
Raigan Kramer (11) – Seaman
MaRyah Lutz (9) – Washburn Rural
Aloera Ostermann (12) – Manhattan
Macy Smith (10) – Hayden
Mya Tovar (12) – Emporia