By Todd Gurnow, Ameritime Sports Content Coordinator
After interviewing so many seniors, I thought I’d take a break today and share some thoughts from a senior citizen…me. The amazing thing that has come out of my coverage of this unprecedented time is the different perspectives and emotions that have been revealed by so many people. I’m in the process of working on a story from the coaches’ viewpoint (come on, coaches…keep sending me your thoughts), and I’m convinced that everyone needs to talk about this. Now, please don’t get me wrong. I’d never equate this to a war or a battle. But everyone is taking “bullets” during this crisis…me included. It’s tough to constantly write about the disappointment, and the raw emotions that every player and coach has expressed to me. So maybe this is cathartic for me as well.
To be honest, this job is difficult for one person to do. There have been many times over the course of two years that I’ve wished for a break. I mean, I AM retired. But I find myself working as hard now as I did when I taught English at Festus High School for 25 years. Someone told me that what I do is a labor of love, and that’s not wrong. I love what I do. And just like all those years that I taught, I’ve grown to love these kids that I write about. Sitting at home last night with my wife, we were talking about this subject, and I told her I don’t think you can do a good job, be it teaching or writing about student-athletes, without loving them. You invest so much time into them that you want to do a good job for them. You don’t want to disappoint them.
Allow me to be selfish for a few moments.
I’ve gotten that break that I so desperately wanted so many times, but I hate it. I hate not writing about what these talented young men and women can do. I hate that I haven’t gotten a chance to see Coach Justin Lieser trot out his first varsity baseball team at Cape Central. I wanted to see Hunter Hiett and Caeden Knepp do their thing for the Tigers. This was to be my first spring covering Cape Central spring sports, so I was looking forward to seeing Coach Jared Dobbs‘ girls soccer team, who’s reputation preceded them. Golf and tennis were also on my agenda for the Tigers, as well as Coach Collin Sheridan‘s track and field squad that featured Stasis Williams, Macee Hoskins, and Dony’e Taylor.
I’ve been able to experience our other three schools play their spring sports last year, but goodness, it hurts to think I won’t see Levi Ebersoldt pitch another game for the Jefferson Blue Jays. I won’t be able to watch Abi Chipps blow past opponents in sprints, or Cheney Ervin show her distance prowess. There’s no chance to see Klarcke Watz in the throwing events, or see Coach Justin Horn guide his first team as head coach. And the first season of Blue Jays golf will have to wait another year to get underway with Coach Sean Breeze leading the way. How weird is that? Gearing up for your first season in history, and then not get the chance to hit the links?
At Ste. Genevieve, I’ll miss those spring days at Yanks Field watching Logan Gegg and Keaton Boyer lead the Dragons in their final year…that hurts. I won’t watch Hannah Duro, Julia McKlin or Joslyn Geisner compete in their final track seasons on the girls side, while 11 guys won’t get that chance. Names like Bryce Trollinger, Evan Walker, Coy Flieg, Koby Hatfield, and Jacob Boyer won’t hear their names called over the loudspeaker, and they won’t get to host their final district meet on their home track. I was excited to see Coach Jay Pope lead his first boys team, and Tyne Huck take a loaded girls team as far as they could go. Then there’s Coach Ryan Mueller with his boys golf team with only one senior (Austin Kuehn) missing out on a year of valuable experience. And perhaps the toughest aspect of all of this is not getting to watch the Dragons’ softball team, which made such strides last spring, lose talent and leadership in seniors Alyssa Huber, Lexi Bova, Haley Irwin, and Katie Beck without a pitch being thrown in 2020.
The Hillsboro Hawks baseball team was going to be a senior dominant team this spring with eight men playing prominent roles in their final season. I’ve grown use to seeing multi-sport athletes like Mark Moore, Garrett Pinkley, and Grant Beck in the blue and white, and watching Logan Warren (a lefty like me) pitching to Isack Hamilton. Coach Chris Schacht had a young girls soccer squad this season after graduating 13 seniors last year. Gillian Sherp and Chelsea Dutton were two of five seniors hoping to lead the youngsters along. Coach Brian Sucharski won’t be able to use the services of his lone senior golfer, Ethan Worley, this spring. And the Hawks’ track program is also hit hard with a combined 18 senior boys and girls never competing again. No more Michael Wright (a great interview), Gavin Wokurka, Tyler Sizemore, Austin Perez, Noah Pool, John Moseley, or Daniel McCallister. On the girls side, I won’t see Bailey Shuman, Elaina Readnour, Xhanae Jones, or Amber Cage competing one last time.
The sad thing is, I didn’t mention half of the other seniors in the last few paragraphs, testament to the large number affected by this pandemic halting spring sports. Oh, I’ll do what I can to continue featuring seniors in the next month or so who didn’t get that final season, but it’s not the same. I won’t share those memorable moments with them. I won’t grieve with them about goals not met, or share the hope with them about getting another chance. Yeah, I take this too personally, no doubt. But I hope that comes out in my writing when given the opportunity.
I’m also sad for the juniors who now are thrust into the idea that they didn’t get a chance to show their talents for college scholarship opportunities. They’ve just got one more year to enjoy being a high school athlete…bet they don’t take it for granted. And I’m sad that I missed out on their junior seasons, with just one more year to cover them. You see, the longer I do this, the more attached I get to the athletes. I know them better…it will be three years with them next year. Heck, I might even show up to some graduations next May.
There’s no doubt we’ve all been changed by the last couple of months. I know that I’ll approach my job with even more vigor knowing that it all can be taken away in a blink of an eye. I think we all value our relationships more. I think we all know that we need to say how we feel to those that we love much more often. And I think we realize we need to enjoy the journey and not sweat the small stuff nearly as much. It’s a shame it took a pandemic to open our eyes like that. But now that they’re really, truly open, let’s make sure we don’t get blinded again.