(NOTE: This story is part of our Top Sports Stories of 2020 series, which runs throughout this week.)
It’s no secret what the biggest sports story of 2020 was.
Never before has the sports world come to a complete halt like it did midway through March, when the pandemic changed the everyday lives of people around the world.
Within a span of a few days, the NCAA tournament was canceled, the NBA season was halted and the NHL season was also put on pause, leaving looming questions on what would come next.
From a local level, all MIAA winter postseason tournaments that hadn’t been completed were canceled in March. After weeks of pushing off the inevitable, the MIAA ultimately canceled the spring sports season in April, leaving many senior student-athletes in the state without a final season.
“It’s a decision based on better ensuring the health and well-being of our students, staff and families and it was the right decision to make,” MIAA President Jeff Granatino said after the announcement. “At the end of the day, though, it still is a tough pill to swallow for thousands of student-athletes across the state who have already lost so much of their school year to this pandemic.”
Few felt the impact of not having a spring season more than the senior athletes who participated in sports like baseball, softball, tennis, track or boys volleyball.
The senior sports season meant something different to each individual athlete. It could be the time to showcase a lifetime of dedication and commitment to a sport; it could be the first time to see the field for a varsity game; for many, it’s the final time in their lives they’ll put on a jersey and compete. Others it was one last opportunity to impress colleges and maybe get a scholarship offer.
It probably meant something different to each of the hundreds of senior athletes in the Recorder area, who had that last chance to unite with teammates stripped away due to reasons completely out of their control. That meant not having those final bus rides with teammates, not having the chance to be honored on senior day and not getting the chance to make a tournament run in their final go-around.
“For us seniors, there was a lot of, ‘We need to get this one, this year is our last year,’” Aly Murphy, then a senior on the Turners softball team, said back in the spring. “We’ve been keeping in touch in our group message about everything, following along. (The day they announced the season was canceled) was definitely a rough day for all of us on the team.”
“Just being part of the program as long as I have been, I’ve always seen the seniors have their Senior Night, play their last games, and I’ve always looked forward to it,” she continued. “And now I’m not getting that. It’s tough to take.”
Some youth sports returned to play over the summer, but the question remained: what would the fall high school season look like?
After endless debate, the MIAA ultimately decided to give the go-ahead to every fall sport, with football being the lone exception. Franklin County independently chose not to have a soccer or volleyball season, in addition to football.
While golf, field hockey and cross country started up in October, things just didn’t feel right around the county without teams getting together under the bright lights on Friday night. It’s tradition, one I’m sure many took for granted and didn’t realize just how important it was until it was taken away.
For seniors, there remains hope for a semblance of a season. Instead of outright canceling football, it was moved back to what is called the “Fall II” season, currently slated to begin at the end of February and running into April.
A nice consolation prize, but the memories of a final Thanksgiving game can’t be brought back by a spring season.
“I feel for the kids because they’re the ones that get hurt the most here,” Greenfield AD and head football coach Mike Kuchieski said over the summer. “But I’ve got to be a glass half full type of guy for this. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel. We’re hoping we get something for these kids this fall in terms of workouts, complying with CDC guidelines, and then put ourselves in a position to be able to play games come February.”