Area athletes lament passing of what would have been the beginning of the spring sports season

Scottsbluff’s Taylor Klein works on her tennis skills during practice. Friday, March 20 would have been the first day of the spring sports season. The NSAA has suspended all practices until March 27, and competition until April 3.

Friday, March 20 was supposed to be the opening of the high school springs sports season, but the NSAA put the high school spring sports season on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Scottsbluff and Gering girls tennis teams were slated to be in North Platte on Friday and the Scottsbluff boys and girl’s soccer teams were slated to open the season at Newcastle, Wyoming.

The Chadron Indoor Track and Field meet was slated for Saturday, March 21. Locally, the big soccer match between Scottsbluff and Gering at Memorial Stadium was on the agenda.

For the next several weeks, there won’t be any high school sports. Schools had been slated to return to practice March 30 with the first contests slated for April 3. Athletes knew those dates could change in a heartbeat, and they did Sunday, when districts throughout the Panhandle announced they would close through May 1. 

Taylor Klein, a senior on the Scottsbluff tennis team, said it is sad that, especially the seniors, won’t be playing a full season.

“It is sad I won’t be able to play my entire season,” Klein said. “I’ve been looking forward to a lot of things with my teammates all year.”

If and when the season does resume, the players will be ready to get back to work.

“Not being able to practice will put us behind where we have been at this time in previous years,” Klein said. “I feel like we will feel really behind. We have so much to do in so little time. But if you didn’t do anything at home that will feel as if you’re starting over.”

That two weeks or more of no practices could especially affect the play of the soccer teams according to Izzy Wright, a junior on the Scottsbluff girl’s soccer team. That layoff and loss of games could affect how the team is meshing together on the field.

“Not being able to practice could affect our team’s season, in the way that new players and even returners might not feel as comfortable as we would like,” Wright said. “However, I do not think it will affect our conditioning and skill level for our entire team. Our team has a great work ethic and is encouraged by our coach to get out of the house, exercise and challenge ourselves every day in order to stay ready for what the rest of the season holds.”

That is the key, really, for teams and individuals to be successful this spring, and that is the drive to continue working in any means they can from their home.

“Our team has great drive and are willing to work outside of practice, which is something we will all have to focus on since there is no practice in session,” Wright said. “As for practicing as a team, we are all advised to stay safe, so coach [Chad] Larson has been sending us workouts for us to do on our own, inspirational videos and words of encouragement during this time when we are not all together. These things are really helpful because it ensures that everybody has a workout to do and it keeps a sense of togetherness throughout the whole team since everybody is involved, working to stay in shape.”

Klein also has been working out at home.

“I’ll try to do anything I can from home. There are always drills you can do that will help,” Klein, who signed to play softball at Otero Junior College, said. “My coach has been in contact with us and he’s told us about all the precautions they’ve taken and he’s been keeping us updated on everything.”

Wright said when they start up again, it is those individual workouts that will be the difference between winning and losing early on.

“I do think the work that everybody on the team is willing to put in during these few weeks away from practice, getting back to the routine and practicing with one another, will flow like it did before this break,” she said. “We are all super excited to get back to playing with one another and improving our soccer skills over the rest of the season.

For Wright and the rest of the Bearcat soccer players, Saturday was a big day as they were scheduled to travel across the river to face Gering. That game might not happen as they will have to wait to see if that game is rescheduled since it is a contest between two teams that are about three miles apart and the players know each other like siblings.

Gering senior Avery Mitchell said she realizes the importance of practicing because of the potential dangers of COVID-19 and she is doing everything she can to stay in top shape.

“Practice is a very important part of any sport, especially a team sport. It is going to be hard to come back and get back to playing as a team,” Mitchell said. “But I try to practice on my own, but it’s hard especially with the snow.”

Mitchell put it in perspective with what is going on, too. When the time is right, the NSAA and high schools will get the athletes back out on the practice field.

“I think it is important to stay alert and not anxious about the situation,” she said. “Though we should be taking the proper precautions, we should also wash our hands and relax at home.”

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