When Utah Jazz players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell tested positive for COVID-19 on March 11, the sports world came to a sudden halt. Events were canceled, tournaments were canceled, seasons were canceled.
Many sub-populations within the sports world are impacted by the stoppage as we may never find out how each respective season would have concluded. Athletes having star-making or job-saving seasons are back to square one in trying to prolong their journeys. Smaller-scale operations, such as semi-pro leagues or second-tier pro leagues may never recover. Wrestlers and other independent contractors lost bookings, not only missing out on paychecks, but chances to build their name.
Many of each sub-population’s top stars have used their fortune to lessen the burden on those most affected by the COVID-19 stoppage, paying arena staff wages or the wages of contractors who suddenly can’t find work. The National Collegiate Athletic Association granted athletes robbed of a season by the virus an extra year of eligibility. These guys deserve to be commended for their efforts in absorbing some of the impact.
There is one sub-population whose blow dealt from COVID-19 was not and cannot be softened by any stimulus or extra year being granted. That is high school athletes, particularly seniors.
Imagine in our own high school athletes like Eli Hazlett and Evan Ellison, poised to compete for state titles, and make runs at school or even state records in track and field, along with other seniors Kaine Allred, Carlin Bierschied, Patrick Johnson, Johnathan Martineau and Malachi Ricks; and on the girls side Jessie Anderson and Kimberly Giron.
There’s Luke Williams, Brayden Cloud and Tyler Morey who were embarking on their final competitive seasons on the diamond. Jameson Hawks, Ty Martinez, Owen Linares and Elijah Topper likely had ambitions of making a deep run in the 3A boys soccer playoffs in a couple of months.
Hawks, Hayden Lance, Soren Indergard and David Minor bonding and learning life lessons with tennis rackets in their hands. Chloe Book and a talented slew of younger players had a chance for glory in softball.
All of their athletic glory, time bonding with teammates and adversaries over the spirit of competition, their final chance to win a title, seemingly has been ripped from their hands by this disease, perhaps more horrible in what the threat of getting it has done to society than the disease itself. As a man named Carson Blackburn said on Facebook:
“If there’s a high school senior in your life, give them an air hug and pray for them. To them, cancellation of school is not a vacation. It’s wasted time they don’t get to spend with their friends the last few months before they graduate. They’re anxious, realizing they may never be able to take the field again with their best friends and hear their name called on senior night. They’re sad hearing their senior trip they’ve been waiting on all year has gotten canceled. They’re nervous that they may not be able to walk the stage and get the diploma they have been working hard on for 12 years. Show them support and love them during these hard times.”
The Moab community has mostly been compassionate and understanding during this pandemic, at least from my vantage point as a grocery store worker and sports writer. Let’s keep doing what we can to make the best of a bad situation. High school seniors, I feel for you and I salute you.
Tim Chappell is a sports reporter for the Moab Sun News and a 2004 Grand County High School graduate.