For teams' seniors, it's a spring of frustration

Plans are sidetracked as shutdowns stretch to end of academic year


High school spring sports athletes and coaches spent weeks in limbo, waiting to see if they would be able to play. The Colorado High School Activities Association first suspended all spring activities and sports until April 6, then pushed the date back to April 15 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The suspension of play was then extended to April 30 — the date through which all Colorado schools must remain closed, per the order of Gov. Jared Polis.

"Any decisions regarding spring activities potentially resuming will depend on students' abilities to return to in-person instruction," CHSAA said in an April 1 statement.

For students in 14 public school districts in the metro area, including all of the districts in the south metro area, the answer seemingly came on April 3: Schools will remain closed to in-person instruction through the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.

As of April 4, CHSAA had not formally canceled the spring season, reiterating that activities are shut down per the governor's order through April 30.

In the south metro area, the Douglas County School District and Littleton Public Schools confirmed the shutdown includes sports for the remainder of the spring. The Cherry Creek School District said it was awaiting further guidance from CHSAA.

It’s a heartbreaking situation for area teams’ seniors, as Arapahoe High School baseball coach Jim Dollaghan noted even before word came down the season would be canceled.

“I have some seniors that have never put on a varsity uniform and they made the varsity team this year and it is the only sport they play,” he said. “Those are the kids I really feel for. Those are the kids that are not going to have the opportunity to play college baseball. This was the last time they have to put on a varsity uniform.”

Other interviews for this story were also conducted in the days prior to news of the cancellation. While coaches and athletes held out some measure of hope they would get to take the field this spring, most were not confident that would happen.

Legend baseball coach Scott Boyd has eight seniors on his team and several were hoping to draw interest from college recruiters.

“I feel heartbreak for the seniors,” said Boyd. “All we can do is encourage them.”

Mountain Vista boys lacrosse coach Matt Plitnick said his senior players have been slapped in the face because of the shutdown.

“We don't have a lot of them but some pretty special ones that have been through a bunch,” Plitnick said. “To go out like this with no senior spring season, no prom, no graduation, they are really getting kicked in the teeth on this one.”

Desmond Srdoc, a senior lacrosse player at Mountain Vista, had been hoping “for the best."

“It is out of our control and it's unfortunate that (the suspension of play) has happened, especially considering how hard we have trained during the offseason and then have the season be suspended,” Srdoc said. “It's really frustrating. That is a good word to describe it. I'm not playing in college, so this is my last year.”

Caleb Albaugh, a senior baseball player at Legend who has committed to Metro State, wasn't especially hopeful the season could be saved.

“It is frustrating,  especially since I am a senior… I honestly don't think we'll have a season because it keeps getting pushed back later and later,” he said.

Athletes were left to work out on their own during the suspension of play.

CHSAA expressed that coaches could connect with kids for social reasons and checking in, and could also post workouts. But anything that is mandatory, even online, or anything that has the appearance of being a mandatory participatory requirement, is not an approved activity by the CHSAA office.

Douglas County girls soccer coach Randy Freeman has been staying in touch on a weekly basis with his players through a school app.

“We ask them to stay as fit as they can,” said Freeman. “If they have a treadmill, use it, get out and take a walk or juggle a ball, just something so they can just kind of stay in touch with the game.”

But it was clear nothing could replace that one final season.

Mackenna Heiden, a Smoky Hill senior goalkeeper and a three-year captain who will play soccer at Northern State University in South Dakota next season, has been hoping not to miss the traditions, including senior night, this spring.

“It's just frustrating because we worked 12 years to walk across the stage and get a diploma and be recognized for everything we've done,” she said, “and have something like this come along and throw everything off track.”


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