COVID-19 transforms landscape of spring sports

The pandemic impacts West High athletics as IHSAA and IHSGAU announce a four-week suspension of Iowa high school sports.

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Kara Wagenknecht

Fabian Brown '21 runs a relay during a track meet.

Hanah Kitamoto, Reporter

On March 16, the Iowa High School Athletics Association and Iowa High School Girls Athletic Union announced that all Iowa high school sports have been suspended until April 13. This news has mainly impacted spring sports, having track cancelling all practices and meets in addition to golf, tennis and soccer to postpone their first practice dates.

According to West High athletic director Craig Huegel, it’s possible that the April 13 date can be pushed back even further as the coronavirus cases are increasing throughout the state.

“At this point, we are operating under the expectation that we will be allowed to resume practices and competitions starting April 13,” Huegel said. “But this can change as the threat to public health continues to evolve.” 

Although the practices and competitions of the spring sports have been suspended, the state tournaments for spring sports and softball and baseball first official practices dates are currently remained as scheduled.

This suspension created a challenge for West High athletics as the suspension prohibits in-person contact between the coaches/administrators and student-athletes during the four-week suspension period.

“We cannot have face to face interaction with our athletes, and our coaches cannot coach them in the traditional sense.  Our coaches are working on sending information and ideas to work out to their specific groups. This pandemic is challenging our creativity and our resolve, and I know our coaches and athletes will rise to the challenge,” Heugel said.

For senior thrower, Salima Omari, the four-week suspension did not easily sink in.

This suspension has had a negative impact on my mental health and my motivation to keep practicing.”

— Salima Omari '20

“Out of all honesty, I broke down and cried for about three days. Every time I thought about all the work I put in I just broke down,” Omari said. “This suspension has had a negative impact on my mental health and my motivation to keep practicing. The fact that I’m a senior doesn’t help because this was the last year I had to really go all out before college.”

Corentin Charles ’23 was looking forward to his first soccer season, which was originally scheduled to start on March 16. Although the news was understandable for Charles, it flipped his plans for the season.

“I was pretty disappointed and upset but I totally understand why they had to do it and it’s better to keep everyone safe,” Charles said. “The situation has canceled all the practices that I have with my soccer club and the preparatory training that the team holds before tryouts. It also spreads doubt and confusion as to how the season will develop.”

Due to the fact recreational centers and services have been closed, it makes it difficult for athletes to train at facilities and in large groups. 

“[The suspension has] definitely affected me a lot because now I’m not prepared as much as I would like, and it’s harder to do practices since they’ve banned the use of any fields or weight rooms on campus,” Charles said.

I was pretty disappointed and upset but I totally understand why they had to do it and it’s better to keep everyone safe.”

— Corentin Charles '23

Without access to the facilities, athletes are struggling to find an efficient way to train.

“Around this time of the year I’m usually in the weight room or the throwing ring. Without these two I don’t know what to do with my life,” Omari said. 

Emily Hill ’20 participates in Iowa City ultimate frisbee team MetalICWings, which is not affiliated with IHSAA or IHSGAU, but was also impacted by COVID-19. 

“As of now, all of our games are cancelled except for our state tournament. People are still getting together to throw and stay in shape, but it’s hard since we aren’t allowed to have groups of more than ten together,” Hill said. “We’re planning on giving everything we have for state this season since we’ve worked so hard and improved so much. State is the one chance we have to show people what Wings has become and so I really, really, hope that we can take state in June.”

Once the suspension is lifted, the transition into the spring sports season back to ‘normal’ will take some time.

“Our plan is to try to make sure our facilities and personnel are ready to return to practice. I believe we will need 1-2 weeks to condition our athletes, conduct tryouts and select teams,” Huegel said. 

While some athletes may raise some concerns for their upcoming season, Omari has some plans.

“[My plan is to] just to keep grinding and hopefully still get a chance to compete in the Drake Relays and the state meet,” Omari said.