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East County Wednesday, Mar. 18, 2020 6 months ago

Area athletes hope coronavirus doesn't wipe out their seasons

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Seniors may have played their last high school game.
by: Ryan Kohn Sports Reporter

Update: The state of Florida has extended the school cancellations through April 15

It isn't losing part of the season through March 30 that has Lakewood Ranch softball player Avery Goelz worried.

It's what comes next.

That appears up on the air at this point, or in the air.

The School District of Manatee County announced March 12 all athletics would be suspended until March 23 because of COVID-19 (coronavirus) precautions. The next day, that suspension was extended through at least March 30, as directed by the state of Florida.

The Florida High School Athletic Association said March 16 no final decision has been made on whether to hold its spring championship events. The FHSAA said it will look at each sport individually as the scheduled championships get closer. 

"Losing my senior season would be hard," Goelz said after finishing her team's final organized practice before the suspension March 12. "We were looking forward to this year with all the talent we had coming back and with 10 seniors. We have been working toward that goal of getting back to the state championship and (this time) winning it, so I have been trying hard not to think about that possibility (of full cancellation). It's too painful. As a softball community, we know how strong we are. Let us play and finish what we started."

Goelz, a first baseman who has signed to play at the University of Florida next season, doesn't mind being cautious, but she wonders if cancelling the entire season would be over the top.

"I was upset when I heard the news," Avery Goelz said. "We are not scared of getting sick at all. I don't think anyone is at risk playing softball. There's not enough close contact for that to happen."

Her father, T.J. Goelz, also is the team's coach and he told his players they might not be able to get together again for quite some time. The Mustangs are the No. 1 ranked team in the nation by MaxPreps.

They have plenty of company in their misery.

Megan Caron is a Lakewood Ranch High senior who rows with Sarasota Crew. While the Crew is not subject to any school district athletics shutdowns, the organization has suspended things on its own. The organization has postponed all of its regattas indefinitely, and Caron said March 16 that going forward, the Crew is only holding optional practices with a maximum of 16 people. Rowers have to sign up if they want a slot. Even those practices are limited to work on the erg machines (indoor rowing) or in individual boats, with no team boats allowed. 

Lakewood Ranch High's Megan Caron (middle) said her senior season will likely be her last as a rower, and she wanted to use her final season with Sarasota Crew to make memories. Photo courtesy Megan Caron.

Caron is attending Florida State next year as a student, not a student-athlete. This season was going to be her last hurrah. Instead, it has turned into a disappointment. 

"It would be devastating to lose this season," Caron said. "I started rowing with the Crew four years ago. Senior year is what everyone waits to experience. We have a great team. We were looking forward to the state meet, which we have won nine years in a row. We wanted to be the ones to make it 10.

"If it was up to me, I would want to keep racing. I want to have those memories when it's all over."

It's not only high school games affected by COVID-19. USRowing announced that the 2020 Olympic Team Trials I, scheduled for March 17-21 at Nathan Benderson Park, were postponed at least 30 days, retroactive to March 13. This also means the 2020 Olympic Team Trials II, which involves Olympic and Paralympic events, scheduled for April 13-17, are still on as of now. Update: The Team Trials II have now also been postponed.

Brett Johnson, a representative of USRowing, said the situation is fluid. Johnson said he could not guarantee the first set of trials would remain at the park whenever they are resumed. Johnson said the organization will talk about the situation with its officials and its athletes, and make another announcement soon. The World Rowing Federation is expected to make an announcement about updated Olympic qualifying procedures on March 17, and Johnson said USRowing will factor that information into its own decision making. 

The International Triathlon Union World Cup race, scheduled for March 14 at Nathan Benderson Park, was postponed indefinitely as well.

MVP Sports and Social is on an indefinite postponement. The current seasons will finish when it is appropriate to resume playing, MVP Sports' Chris McComas said.

Recreational sports also have been impacted. MVP Sports co-founder Chris McComas said March 16 the league was postponing all games for all sports indefinitely. McComas said if everything goes right, he would like to open the league the week of April 12, but the league will extend suspended play if warranted.

"We were one of the last leagues of our kind to shut down," McComas said. "We didn't want it to be a panicked decision. We wanted it to be an ethical decision. As more information became available, the decision became easy. Our league is for all ages and there are so many people who can be carriers and not know it. We did not want to contribute to the problem spreading. We did not feel it was right to continue playing at this time."

Those who want to practice their sport will have plenty of space on local playing fields.

Avery Goelz said the Mustangs players discussed holding optional workouts among themselves, but no concrete plans have been made. She said regardless of what others want to do, she is going to practice. Goelz, a Florida signee, said softball for her is a way of life.

"Me personally, I still need to hit," Goelz said, laughing. "I can't stop. I need to stay sharp." 

Whether it matters whether she is sharp are not will be determined in the next few weeks.

I’m the sports reporter for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. I was born and raised in Olney, MD. My biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. My strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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