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Coronavirus upends high school sports

The coronavirus, or COVID-19, has brought significant disruption to “life as we know it” around the world.

In a matter of days, the sports world and many local student-athletes have seen their spring sports seasons upended by the spread of the virus.

It started with playing without fans, to outright cancellations of a multi-billion dollar industry.

Down went the NBA first. Then, like dominos, they all started falling – the SEC basketball tournament, March Madness and Spring Training. Then came delays to the opening of the Major League Baseball, NASCAR and the Masters.

Friday the Alabama High School Athletic Association suspended sports – at least temporarily. Local high school teams were trying to cram in as many games as possible before the end of the day March 17, when the suspension went into effect.

With things changing literally by the hour, no one knows when– or if – high school sports will restart.

High school seniors are coping with the real possibility of their careers being over.

“It honestly doesn’t feel real,” said Belgreen softball player Katie Dempsey. “It’s crazy to think that even if we do get to play again, I am still going to have three weeks where we cannot play or even practice. It all happened so fast, and I never imagined my senior year going this way.

“We were going to Gulf Shores to play in a tournament during Spring Break, and now that’s cancelled. I don’t think it has fully sunk in that most, and possibly all, of my senior year has been taken away so unexpectedly.”

Phil Campbell catcher and cleanup hitter Rilan Garrison said he still hasn’t processed that his season and career could be over.

“Obviously it is a tough pill to swallow, and it’s not going to get any better,” said Garrison.  “I know things don’t always go the way we want it to, and I’ve accepted that, but I just hope we are able to play our playoffs if anything. I know I’m a senior, but I don’t think I’ve processed that this is really the end yet – partially because it happened all of a sudden.

“Two weeks ago we are starting the season with high hopes of winning state, and now we’re just hoping we can even play for state,” he added. “I played Saturday (against East Lawrence) like it was any other game and made jokes about how it could be my last but never thought it would really come to this.

“Maybe it won’t end this way.  If it does, then all I can do is appreciate the time I have been blessed with to play baseball.”

Russellville softball centerfielder A.J. Taylor said it hit her when they were cleaning out their lockers at their softball facility.

“I’ve had the same locker for four years, and I shouldn’t have had to clean it out until May,” said Taylor. “I came out of there with four Walmart bags full of stuff, and I’m keeping it in the trunk of my car until we can go back in there.

“We were all shedding tears because it just seems so unreal that something like this would possibly happen,” she said. “I’ve been seeing tweets about college kids talking about their last at bat. Well, mine was a strikeout because I’ve been in a slump.

“I would rather that not be the end of my senior year.”

Vina baseball player Braden Moomaw echoed the disappointment.

“I hate it for my teammates and my fellow seniors,” said Moomaw. “We’ve been giving it everything we’ve got this season, and we have an amazing coach. I hate it that the season might be over. That is my family, and I would do anything for those guys. We have had big goals, and things haven’t gone our way this year.

“You can’t take anything for granted. It all happened so fast.”

The AHSAA will reevaluate all spring sports during the suspension in play and hopefully have a plan when schools are scheduled to start back April 6.

Hopefully, that will be the case.

Hopefully, the virus will be under control and life can get back to normal for so many.

Hopefully, these seniors can recapture at least some of what they’ve lost.

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