Mustang athletes miss their spring sports

Rob Maeske
Keith Prather on the mound during the 2019 baseball season.

With the Penn Yan Central School District’s recent announcement it will extend the district’s closure to May 15 in compliance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order, the school shutdown stretches into its second month. The shutdown has been challenging for many. Parents have suddenly been thrust into the role of educators; teachers find themselves having to adapt to new methods to reach their students; students are separated from classmates and school activities; and the spring sports season is on indefinite hiatus. Two students who are active in school sports shared their opinions on the shutdown and what it means for their last high school season.

Kayla Andersen and Brennan Prather are both seniors at Penn Yan Academy. Andersen plays volleyball in the fall and would currently be playing softball in the spring season. Prather played football and basketball this year and would be playing baseball if the season was in session.

“This shutdown was extremely unexpected and seemed very sudden,” said Anderson. “This is definitely not the way I had pictured the end of my senior year playing out.”

“Personally, the shutdown is very disappointing, especially being my senior year,” said Prather.

Across the state and the country, students are finding plans for their senior year disrupted in various ways.

“Seniors are missing out on prom,” said Prather. “My fellow seniors and I missed out on our annual trip to Myrtle Beach over spring break that we fundraised for throughout the year.”

Andersen echoed the feeling of loss this year, especially in regards to the softball season.

“I have been playing with my current teammates since little league, so we have been thinking about our final year to play together for a long time. It is hard to think that we might not get the opportunity to finish what we started,” she said.

“It’s devastating for the kids to not be in school,” opined PYCSD Athletic Director Jonathan MacKerchar. “Seniors might be seeing their high school sports careers coming to a premature end.”

Despite being prevented from practicing and playing with their teams, many students are still doing their best to remain active and ready in case the season eventually gets under way.

“I work out everyday after I wake up,” said Prather. “Along with my famliy, I try to go on a hike once or twice a week, and I also enjoy riding my bike along the lake when the weather is nice. For baseball, I do arm exercises and some light throwing to stay loose, along with taking some swings when I can.”

“I am a pitcher for the softball team, so I have been able to practice on my own to stay prepared for the season,” said Andersen. “My coach, Melissa Armsden, has put together workout opportunities for myself and my teammates to complete. They have helped us stay connected as a team and ready for our season to continue. Aside from athletics, going for walks and getting outside has put this time into perspective and helped me focus on my school work.”

District officials and sports administrators continue to discuss plans for a modified-length schedule should school open again this year, but in these times, the only certainty is uncertainty.

“It’s uncharted territory for all of us,” said MacKerchar. “(But), we will have a modified schedule if and when we return.”

Asked how they would feel about a modified-length schedule, Andersen and Prather both expressed their support the idea.

“Regardless of when schools reopen, I believe a modified schedule for spring sports should be considered even if there could not be league or section titles,” said Andersen. “This would give athletes the opportunity to represent their school and play a sport that they love, even if it is only one game. I would be grateful to play on a shortened schedule after this postponement rather than not at all, as it would give the Class of 2020 one last time to play at the high school level and finish the career they have put so much time and effort into.”

Said Prather, “If the schedule got modified or our seasons got shortened I would not care as long as we could play ball. I feel like it would mean everything to the athletes that are missing out, especially to all the seniors that have had their seasons sidelined.”

Considering the pandemic in general, Andersen responded, “I believe this time will pass as soon as it came if every citizen realizes the role that they can play in aiding relief efforts, which could mean simply staying at home and supporting their friends and family. It is hard for people my age that are low risk to refrain from seeing others, but the impact of one action could be deadly to those you love. As many people have repeated: it may be difficult to tell if we have done too much, but it will be all too apparent if we do not do enough.”

The students’ dedication to their sports and pragmatism in the face of a new and uncertain situation is commendable. Hopefully, student athletes will still get a chance this year to participate safely in the sports they love and have worked hard for.