Student-athletes discuss abrupt cutoff to spring athletic season

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Photo courtesy of Jewell Athletics

Following a unanimous vote by its Council of Presidents, the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC) announced March 19 that it would cancel the 2020 athletic season in light of concerns about the worsening coronavirus pandemic. This news came six days after the GLVC announced all intercollegiate championships would be canceled, while intercollegiate athletic activities were only suspended at the time, pending review April 6. 

Now that classes have shifted online and most Jewell students have returned home to finish the academic year, student-athletes are adjusting to both digital academics and the loss of the spring season. Seniors, moreover, are left to reckon with an abrupt end to their student-athlete career as a whole without so much as a final goodbye to coaches and teammates.

The Hilltop Monitor spoke to student-athletes whose sports seasons were affected by the cancellation of the spring season.

Some, like Jameson Howard, senior golfer and business administration, nonprofit leadership and ACT-In major, expected the news.

“I realized it was officially over whenever my coach passed along info [that] all [GLVC] events were cancelled. I wasn’t surprised by this point, but it still hurt,” Howard said.

On the other hand, Bjorn Myers, senior tennis player and accounting, business administration and ACT-In major, didn’t want to believe his Jewell career was over.

“I held out for a long time, I did not want to believe that my college tennis career had ended due to the virus. Once they cancelled graduation, I finally had to give in. I was devastated. It was up to date my best season and I really did not want it to end,” Meyers said. “I just wish I could have known my last match was actually my last. I never expected that a match against a school that did not even matter would be the end of all my hard work. I would have savoured the moment a bit more.”

Sarah Lewis, senior softball player, business administration, political science and ACT-In major, echoed this sentiment and emphasized how her deep connection to her team made it so much harder to accept that her student-athlete career was over.

“[T]he news has definitely come on gradually and it has been very hard to handle. In all honesty, there have been a lot of tears. It’s very hard to work your butt off for something for 15 years picturing those amazing moments that will happen your senior year of college, and then all of it being thrown away. Softball and our team mean everything to me. Last fall I finished my degrees and was on track to graduate in December, but I chose to stay my final semester to be with my team and play this sport. Some may think that I am foolish in that decision and should have moved on and started working or gone to grad school. THAT is how special this team is and how special this sport is,” Lewis said.

Katie Simms, first-year track & field athlete and mathematics major, discussed the canceled events she was looking forward to and expressed her regret about not being able to spend more time with seniors on her team.

“I was definitely looking forward to our home meet as it would have been my first time competing at Jewell … I was also looking forward to getting to share the rest of the season with our Seniors that I grew close to throughout the season. It’s hard to comprehend that I won’t get to run or jump with any of them again,” Simms said.

Lewis noted the compassion her underclassmen teammates showed to the seniors but emphasized that everyone is allowed to be upset about what has happened.

“My teammates have been very selfless about it all. Every time the underclassmen talk about being upset, they always add on something about it not being as bad as what the seniors are going through. I think each player, regardless of grade level, and coach should be able to grieve this to the full extent. We have all gained a valuable lesson from it all. We have learned to never take any part of the sport for granted, even if that means doing your squat max in the weight room at 6:15am when you’re tired and don’t feel well. You never know when the sport is going to end for you, so work hard and do it even when you’re not comfortable,” Lewis said.

As an international student from Australia, Myers not only had to weather the uncertainty about his athletic and academic future at Jewell but also about returning home safely.

“It was really difficult as I did not know what the future held. As I was holding out that matches would be played I was aiming to remain on campus. That changed when I heard news of the airline I use was cancelling all flights after March 31st until at least June. I was lucky enough to get a set on the last flight to Australia before there were no more. This is when I finally had to admit there would be no more tennis. The online classes are tough, I have to wake up at 3am a few times a week to join a [Z]oom meeting but other than that my main classes were already online due to my internship I was completing,” Myers said.

There were a number of competitions, events and traditions each student-athlete recognized as being something they were eagerly anticipating. Lewis talked about Senior Day, a day on which underclassmen softball players make scrapbooks and gifts for seniors. In lieu of the event, Lewis shared that the underclassmen presented the seniors with slideshows filled with special memories from their time on the team.

Howard was looking forward to a conference tournament set to take place in his hometown of St. Louis, where he was hoping to host a team dinner. 

Myers expressed frustration about having to miss a match with Rockhurst University, confident he would have been able to beat them after a few years of losses.

Simms regretted that the season was cut off because it has deprived her of what she views as invaluable time to improve. Still, she remains optimistic about her three remaining years with Jewell track & field.

“This has definitely taken away my opportunity to continue to improve. There were certain events where I wasn’t quite where I wanted to be in [the] indoor [season], so I was hoping to get to where I wanted to be in [the] outdoor [season] … However, I know the situation could be much worse. I am thankful that this is only my first year and that I still have three years to accomplish all that I want to accomplish,” Simms said.

In a final statement, each senior student athlete shared what they would miss most about their college athlete career and experience at Jewell. 

“I will miss being around this group of girls every day. Every single day is a memory. You don’t often meet people that are so interesting and entertaining, and who make every day worth remembering. The laughs, double plays, home runs and more all made every single day with softball something to look forward to. We still talk all day every day, talking about softball or sending funny [T]ik [T]ok’s, but we are all so far apart and miss each other immensely. There are so many things I will miss about Jewell as well. I will miss being a part of my sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, and getting to make more memories with our new members. Some of my best memories from Jewell were during second semester freshman year, so my heart goes out to the entire first-year class. I will miss all of the fun that I had hanging out with friends at LCA, and I will miss all of the helpful professors and staff on campus. I will also miss Ashley, our trainer. She is so compassionate about helping athletes and has been the best addition to our team this year. Every person who interacts with our team has a lasting impact, and she has made traveling, practicing, and everything in between so much more fun. I will miss the close atmosphere of William Jewell and being able to walk on the quad and have 5 people say hi to me between leaving the PLC and walking into the Union. You never realize how much you love it until it’s over. I want to say a huge thank you to my parents, teammates, coaches, trainers, teachers, and staff. Thank you for believing in me and supporting me for the last 4+ years. Extra shoutout to Ashlyn, Emily, Taylor, and Lindsay. We stuck it out together through the good, the bad, and the very ugly and there’s no group I would’ve rather finished with,” Lewis said.

Howard recollected on the simple moments of hanging out and bonding as a team to be his most treasured memories from college golf. 

“Having the team over to my house and just hanging out and laughing at the end of the day as a team will always be some of my favorite memories from college golf. It hurts to have it all end like this, but I’ve recognized that there are more important things going on in the world right now than golf. The [J]ewell golf team has been great to me, and I’m thankful to have been a part of it for as long as I was,” Howard said.

In his final statement, Myers commended the College for both handling the situation with coronavirus well and for playing a major formative role in the person he has become.

“Obviously this whole situation has been tough on everyone at the school but I feel like the school has handled it fairly well and has been supportive of those that need accommodations. For my experience, I really had no idea what to expect when I chose [J]ewell 4 years ago. It has turned out to be an amazing up and down ride. I have met so many people who will be life long friends, I have met my long term girlfriend at Jewell and this whole experience has really shaped me into the man I am today. I have been so lucky to be part of the [J]ewell community and even though the school is sometimes tough to want to stay at, it was all so worth it in the end. My athletic career has been amazing, I have [gotten] to meet players from all over the world and my tennis has improved so much with the help of coach Elly. I just wish I could play college tennis for 4 more years. But I think that is the beauty of being a student-athlete, you only got 4 [years] so you have to make the most of it. Looking back, I think I did just that,” Myers said.

Christina Kirk

Christina Kirk is the Editor-in-Chief of The Hilltop Monitor. She is a senior majoring in Oxbridge: Institutions & Policy and international relations.

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