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Column – Seniors face to face with uncertainty

ESCANABA — An inevitability.

I’m sure that’s what many high school seniors felt deep down but didn’t want to admit to themselves.

In the wake of trying to slow the spread of COVID-19, many things fell by the wayside. Leaving your house more than once a week, standing within arm’s length and incidental conversation with random people while you’re out doing things – actually, I don’t miss that one too much – are things I can tolerate, but it’s a different story for those finishing out their senior year electronically.

It’s the loss of the experience that will be felt most keenly. They’re missing a once in a lifetime experience that will be nearly impossible to replicate.

For those athletes who missed the last half of their senior sports career, it can be a difficult pill to swallow. In terms of practicality, those who were hoping to have film, stats or results to present to any prospective tertiary educator will have to make do with their junior year or a different sport during the fall or winter if they’re a multi-sport athlete.

Those athletes also won’t have the opportunity to practice or refine those skills in the same way that they could with an entire season of actual games under their belt – not to mention the inability to effectively practice during the months of lockdown.

The effects of the practical side – getting rusty and a thinner resume – could range from disappointing to devastating, but I think that most people have grasped that situation intuitively by now since we’re all facing the same sort of physical situation.

Something a little tougher to nail down is the experiences that those athletes have lost. Irrespective of the chance to hone their skills, win or lose, each one of those games, tournaments and practices would have left an indelible mark on those seniors. The team camaraderie alone is a huge loss. Of course, it’s thankfully been somewhat mitigated by our increasing interconnectivity, but there’s still a difference between the two.

Going all the way back to March, we were in the middle of the basketball postseason, and several local teams and players missed the chance to capture district and regional titles.

The Rapid River boys were set to take on the Hannahville Soaring Eagles in a district championship game before everything was shut down. It would have been the first district championship Hannahville participated in, and Rockets’ senior point guard Tyler Sundling was hoping to add to his impressive 1,000 point career total. Escanaba was going for back-to-back district titles at Menominee, and Carney-Nadeau and North Central were ready to renew their rivalry in a quest for a district championship.

Now, these are unanswered outcomes. Win or lose, it would’ve been something all teams would’ve remembered for quite a while.

Then there’s the softball-shaped elephant in the room. Coming off back-to-back state titles, Escanaba softball was forced to postpone its attempt at a three-peat. In the process, the Eskymos are losing five seniors to graduation. Among them is star pitcher Gabi Salo, as she moves on to the University of Wisconsin.

Uncertainty is the name of the game in sports now.

Who would have gone on to boys basketball regionals? Would the Esky softball team be stacking up another trophy? Can it pull off a three-peat next year after taking an entire season off along with the roster change?

My answer is undoubtedly a shrug. Games are usually unpredictable at the best of times, so who knows?

However, the outcomes aren’t really the point here. The reality is that these seniors have lost something in our efforts to combat this disease. We can only hope it’s an episode they can put behind them, and hopefully, it’s one another batch of seniors won’t have to experience.

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