COVID-19 Ends the 2020 Campaign
The Grateful Dead sang, What a long, strange trip its been; ironic, in that a shortened season seems like it's taken forever to complete. In this case, completion began its inevitable end on April 3rd at 9:30 a.m. when the SPC announced "the cancellation of its spring season and spring championships."
In its press release, the SPC Board of Directors Chair Jon Kellam and SPC Commissioner Bob Windham stated: "After exhausting all possible avenues to potentially postpone and reschedule a modified spring conference tournament, the Board of Directors of the Southwest Preparatory Conference unanimously decided to cancel all Southwest Preparatory Conference athletic competitions for the entire spring season.
"We are all saddened that circumstances warrant these actions but realize we are doing what is in the best interest of the health, safety, and well-being of our student-athletes, coaches and fans."
Then on April 17, shortly after 4:00 p.m., after Governor Abbott officially closed ALL Texas public and private schools at all levels, both TAPPS and UIL issued statements "mov[ing] to the conclusion of our Spring activities."
And so 2020, in hindsight, ends in as surreal a manner as any Hollywood script writer could have ever conceived.
Seniors who epitomize the fruits of four years labor and sweat will wake up Saturday, April 18 and come to the slow realization that their high school athletic careers have been stunted by a pandemic.
In H.G. Wells' classic Martian tale War of the Worlds, it's the microorganisms on Earth that eventually save us from the tripods equipped with heat rays destined to destroy our way of life. The military has proven unsuccessful, but the tiniest creatures on the planet tackle the largest and most lethal from our red neighbor. In a cruel twist, the tiniest creatures have once again tackled the largest institutions on our planet; only this time, they're attacking us instead of defending us, in the meantime toppling our institutionalized way of life.
"Our staff had been working hard on plans to resume activities this spring, but without schools in session, interscholastic activities cannot continue," said UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt. And he's 100% correct. How do we invite and usher students and coaches back onto campuses when they're not safe?
2020 was shaping up to be a year for the record books. Heading into Spring Break, the national rankings were littered with the names and feats of Texas high school track and field athletes in every event. Athletes from the three major conferences were primed to dazzle the post-season score sheets and chase state records.
Now it's as if the Starter in the Sky said, "Athletes, to your marks ... Set ... Stand up."
The stay-at-home orders remain in effect, schools are shut for the remainder of the year, and spring sports, what kept so many student-athletes focused on maintaining decent grades, has now been lost. And so eLearning battles another obstacle.
For the underclassmen, there's still time to train and create memories and for those lucky enough, pursue college scholarships.
For all of us - coaches, officials, photographers, announcers, fans, athletes, and everyone else associated with a successful meet, 2020 will stand out in reflection. Next year, in five years, 10 years and more, one will remember the 2020 season because of the ever-present asterisk: the season cut short due to COVID-19.