Spring sports canceled
The spring sports season is over before it really began.
The University Interscholastic League and the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools canceled all remaining 2019-2020 spring activities and state championships Friday after Gov. Greg Abbott shut down Texas schools for the rest of the school year earlier in the week.
The announcement ends spring competitions for Fredericksburg Independent School District, Harper ISD, Heritage School and Ambleside School.
“Our staff had been work-ing hard on plans to resume activities this spring, but without schools in session, interscholastic activities cannot continue,” UIL Executive Director Dr. Charles Breithaupt said. “Our highest priority during this challenging time is ensuring the health and safety of our students and communities and making progress in the containment of COVID-19 in Texas.
“We are now turning our attention to the 2020-2021 school year.”
Abbott’s declaration ends nearly a month of waiting in limbo to learn whether or not play would return.
Both UIL and TAPPS put that to rest with its latest update.
FISD athletic director Lance Moffett doesn’t blame UIL for the decision.
Abbott’s closure of Texas school systems was the final nail in the coffin of the sports season.
No school means no sports.
“I don’t know if the UIL had a choice,” Moffett said. “I’m exceptionally proud of the UIL for maintaining the posture of hope if we come back to school. I don’t think the UIL really has a choice if we’re not going to be in school. The UIL has to maintain a fair and even playing field for all of the UIL activities … I certainly think the UIL reacted in a manner that they had to.”
Moffett says it deters a “Wild Wild West” scenario of disadvantage between UIL member schools.
Soccer, tennis, golf, baseball, softball and track and field were either in district competition or getting close for district’s start.
Boys’ basketball had not finished its state tournament.
All of the spring sports collide during March and April but everything came to a standstill after Friday’s declaration.
“It has really been weird not being at school and being around the kids and playing sports,” said Harper athletic coordinator Vance Millican. “Spring time is the busiest time of the year in a small school with kids going in 20 different directions.”
Practices, rehearsals and workouts remain suspended until further notice.
“We are still in a holding pattern for (the summer),” Millican said. “(We’re) not sure what they will let us do this summer as for strength and conditioning workouts, open gym, summer camps, etc. We are all hoping we will be able to do them.”
The previously communicated information allowing remote instruction remains in place.
The UIL said it will continue to follow the direction of state authorities and will work closely with member schools to navigate this unprecedented time.
UIL has yet to rule on summer activities as of press time Tuesday, April 21.
Athletic directors and coaches are focused on restarting sports with summer strength and conditioning camps starting in June.
The ease of restrictions influenced by social distancing guidelines will be a determining factor in whether or not coaches and athletes can return to business as usual in the summer.
Just about every sport offered by Fredericksburg High School and Harper has a summer camp geared toward younger players, putting instructional clinics in a holding pattern.
Moffett will meet with football staff and head coaches of other sports to determine how they can go forward.
“All of that is to logistically figure out a path forward,” Moffett said. “You start to think about all of the things that have to take place.”
Spring is usually prime time for FHS to bring home the gold.
Now that UIL pulled the plug on the sports season, the Billies leave potential titles on the table.
“I sat in my office all afternoon Friday stunned that not only were we not coming back to school this year, but an entire spring sports season is gone,” Moffett said. “I feel terrible for our seniors. I feel terrible for our competitors. I was looking forward to going back to the state softball tournament, back to the state and regional track meet, back to the state golf tournament.”
FHS returned the defending Class 4A regional champs in softball and boys’ golf.
Head golf coach Tim Kaman felt his team had a chance at a medal this season, led by outgoing seniors Denver Schneider and Jaxon Langford.
Kaman also had a pair of four-year seniors — Allison James and Gracie Grona — on the girls’ side.
“Gracie, Allison, Jaxon, and Denver are tremendous young people, not just great golfers,” he said. “These kids had a chance to go a long way this year. They have really worked hard, and not seeing them get a chance to shine is difficult. Yes, the memories of what was to be are not there, but there were so many other memories along the way. The good thing is that the boys will continue their careers in college. I just wish the girls would have been able to finish their careers the right way.”
The girls’ track team had a shot of winning a second regional title in three years, led by senior Aleah Constantine.
Constantine was one of the region’s top performers in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, pole vault and long jump.
The team won every meet before the season’s suspension, with the Carlin Wicker Relays and the Texas Relays next on the schedule.
“I was planning on a group of young ladies qualifying to state in eight events which would have been the most we have had in the past 10 years,” FHS head girls’ track coach Dan Aldrich said. “Although we were unable to finish what we started, we all still enjoyed the season with the success we had, developed many girls to perform their best, and we loved every minute of it.”
Boys’ track had at least two seniors with state meet hopes: thrower Christian Avilez and Troy Kneese, who competed in multiple races and field events.
Junior Andrew Kendrick made last year’s 4A state 3200-meter race and was a good bet to return after an injury-filled cross country season.
“I thought that we were right where we had planned on being, the relays were getting faster, our field events were beginning to dominate meets, and our individual running events were progressing very well,” head boys’ track coach Gilbert Renaud said. “I felt really good about where we were right after Kerrville, the guys were healthy and hungry for the next meet.”
Team tennis won the 4A state championship in the fall and had several individual players who made the state tournament last year.
Both soccer teams were in the thick of the playoff chase.
The boys’ team led District 28-4A and were a game and a half ahead of second place Boerne.
FHS girls’ soccer, which started strong in January, was in a solid spot for the postseason.
“To my knowledge the 16 wins that the team accumulated is the highest number of wins in program history,” head girls’ soccer coach Logan Minshew said. “We would have had tough playoff match ups, but the young ladies played aggressive attacking soccer and always left everything on the field.
“The past few weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions. Although it was discussed while we practiced over spring break, none of us really thought we had played our last game.”
Billies baseball, which hovered around .500 at the season’s stopping point, also had a potential playoff bid on the horizon but didn’t get to start district.
With all levels of baseball from the Major League to Little League halting ball, it’s been an adjustment for FHS baseball coach Derrick Dietrich.
“I have missed the daily interactions with our kids,” Dietrich said. “I guess we, me at least, sometimes take those interactions for granted. It’s really hit me the last several weeks. Believe it or not, I have truly missed our practices, just being out there and teaching the game. What a great profession coaching is. I miss being competitive. I miss my heart rate getting up. I miss the smiles on our kids’ faces when things go good. I miss the disappointment that all of us face when you play this game. I miss the interactions with our coaches. I miss the hugs and high fives.
“I miss everything that coaching entails. I miss our kids.”
If there’s a takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s to make sure to enjoy every second of what they’re doing in the present.
“The girls know now that at any time they can lose something they love when it is out of their control, so they all need to seize every moment they get to better themselves and perform like it is their last time,” Aldrich said. “We are planning for a bigger year next year and we will work to make that a reality in 2021.”
Harper’s participation in four spring sports — golf, softball, baseball and track and field — also comes to an end.
“I feel bad for all the seniors here at Harper missing out on so much,” Millican said. “Some are taking it in stride and others are still upset.”
Both baseball and softball were set to repeat as playoff qualifiers this season.
The softball team graduates a pair of four-year starters in Callie Koenig and Gracie Green.
Dr. Chris Stevenson balances Harper ISD superintendent duties with head softball coaching responsibilities after taking over the Ladyhorns’ program this season.
The team played three tournaments and were two days from district play’s start.
“It was very disappointing,” Stevenson said. “However, I had been discussing the possibilities with the girls for a couple of weeks. They took every day as if it could be the last time they played for the year. Their approach to each practice and each game was unbelievable.”
Harper baseball only graduates one senior — Kelton Marek — from the team.
“(It’s disappointing) not getting the kids to finish out their season,” head baseball coach Scott Lake said. “When we finished our last game, none of us had a clue it was going to be the last.”
The boys’ golf team advanced to regionals last season.
Harper girls’ track was set for another strong year on the cinder oval.
The team returned two qualifiers from last year’s UIL Class 2A state meet: senior Gracie Green and junior Rebekah Stracke.
The team finished third in the IV-2A regional meet.
Head girls’ track coach Willie Reid also serves as the head cross country coach, so sending out summer mileage charts for runners is his next step.
He hopes the end of spring sports serves as a lesson in learning what’s important.
“Bottom line, to me this is a wake up call for all of us that really shines a light on making sure we really understand what matters most in life and getting priorities back in order — God, family, and then whatever you do after that,” Reid said.
TAPPS also called off the rest of the 2019-2020 sports calendar, which affects both of the area’s private schools.
“We miss the kids for sure,” Heritage School athletic director Tami Given said. “The initial break after spring break was good as many of our athletes had not had a break from training since the summer since most kids transitioned immediately into the next sport. We were starting to see some overuse injuries. I was still hopeful until last week for a state level competition to allow these kids one opportunity to compete, especially the seniors.”
Heritage competes in track and field, tennis and golf and Given said they had a chance to medal individually or as a team in each sport.
Most of the school’s athletes will be back next season.
The cancelation hits home for Given, since her son. Noah. is one of the few senior athletes at the school.
“Noah is certainly disappointed as he loves to compete,” Given said. “He misses as I do being together as a team. For the seniors, it is hard for them to miss out on the final days with their classmates before they move on to their next chapters. Like most things, this is a season and will pass. I have enjoyed the extra time with him at home, which is a blessing.”
Ambleside fields golf and tennis at the high school level.