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Coaches reflect on a season that wasn't

John Childers (La Plata head baseball coach)

La Plata head baseball coach John Childers, right, had also eagerly looked to the start of the 2020 spring season since his squad arrived as the defending Class 2A state champions and returned several starters including Ryan Calvert, a University of North Carolina Wilmington recruit.

When it finally became official that the spring season for athletes in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, it was not only the players who were disappointed their various sports seasons had ended.

Throughout the spring, as the resumption of the school year and sports seasons were delayed several times before being canceled altogether, various SMAC coaches had expressed their desires to see their players in a group setting. Some even hinted that one week of practice, regardless of any games taking place thereafter, would bring some closure to the season.

Huntingtown High School head track and field coach Valerie Harrington has spent the previous 32 seasons watching the state outdoor track and field championships on Memorial Day weekend until this past one. It was a fitting end to an odd spring season in which teams may have started practices but never had the opportunity to compete.

“Every time they kept delaying the start of the season, I kept thinking it would eventually start at some point,” Harrington said. “I kept my hopes up that the season would start in April or maybe early May. I really only needed two meets — regions and states. I’m going to miss all of my seniors, 18 boys and four girls. They won’t get the season back.”

Last Friday, Harrington reminded her track athletes that that date marked the scheduled start of this year’s state championships at Morgan State University. Of course, the weekend’s activities were canceled several weeks earlier, but Harrington still has plans to see her 22 seniors one last time, even if not in a group setting.

“Normally, right after the state meet we have our awards banquet,” Harrington said. “Of course, that won’t happen this year. But I still plan to visit every senior and give them all of their awards. I want to see them one more time and just see their faces one last time and be able to personally thank them individually for everything they did for Huntingtown and the track team.”

La Plata head baseball coach John Childers had also eagerly looked to the start of the 2020 spring season since his squad arrived as the defending Class 2A state champions and returned senior standout Ryan Calvert, a University of North Carolina Wilmington recruit, and starters Tyler Moody, Brandon DeAtley and Mason Stein. But it wasn’t necessarily the title pursuit that Childers missed the most.

“It was definitely a strange spring,” Childers said. “You get accustomed to talking to your players every day at practice and at games and you always look for ways to make them better players. But not being able to interact with them personally was really different. You can only say so much in an email or a text message. If you don’t get to see them face-to-face, then something is missing.”

Westlake head track and field coach Beth Shook watched her boys team perform well during the indoor season and had seen her school’s girls basketball team earn a berth in the 2A state semifinals, which never got played as the state boys and girls basketball tournaments were canceled along with spring sports. Shook was on hand when the Wolverines girls celebrated their successful season at a drive-thru luncheon at the school last Wednesday.

“My heart breaks for the athletes missing this last season and the basketball players that didn’t get to finish their season,” Shook said. “They are a resilient bunch of kids and I expect great things from them in the future.”

Leonardtown boys basketball completed its season just before the coronavirus pandemic started closing schools across the area and the nation, but the effects are still felt for teams out of season.

“It’s hard,” Raiders head coach Jeb Barber said in an April interview with Southern Maryland Newspapers. “We typically do stuff year-round. After the season, we usually take a couple of weeks off and then we get going with open gyms and some lifting and those kind of things, so obviously all that is put on hold. We also have a lot of spring sport athletes who unfortunately aren’t able to stay in great shape and stay sharp with their bodies so they’re ready to rock and roll during the summer.

“I’m just curious to see how long all of this goes to see if all of our summer plans need to be postponed as well. I just hope the kids are taking care of themselves academically, physically and spiritually at home, so when we do come back that they’re ready to rock and roll and kind of continue on the momentum that has been built over the last couple of years.”

St. Mary’s Ryken head girls basketball coach Toyja Somerville said offseason plans are definitely being impacted.

“I believe the most impacted are the 2021s because this is the most important summer for them as far as exposure goes,” Somerville said. “However, we tell our kids to try to keep things in proper perspective because people are dying. We tell them to keep working so they can be ready, workouts are provided weekly by our athletic department. We also do free virtual skills sessions for our girls and for interested young athletes to give kids some structures instruction and something to look forward to. We pray for an end soon. We also offer heartfelt congratulations to Raevyn Harris [who recently signed to play basketball at Cleveland State University] and all 2020 graduates.”

Staff writer Paul Watson contributed to this report.

Twitter: @tblacksomds1

Twitter: @tblacksomds1