The season that never was: How COVID-19 affected App State senior athlete’s final seasons

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Graphic by Efrain Arias-Medina/Images courtesy App State Athletics

Kaiden Smith, Senior Reporter

March 12 was a dismal day for App State Athletics when the Sun Belt Conference announced the indefinite suspension of  regular and postseason play of all sports due to concerns regarding COVID-19. 

Fall sports like volleyball and soccer put their offseason training and preparation on hold. But for spring athletes, the impact was much greater, as their seasons abruptly came to an unfortunate end. 

All preparing to compete, App State’s spring sports teams were spread across the country from Orlando, Florida to Lafayette, Louisiana when they heard the news that their seasons would be cut short.

“Our biggest moment was just in the facility with the whole team, a couple guys were crying and it was a pretty sad moment for a lot of people, because I think at the time, they just knew it was over for the season and that this will probably be the last time a lot of us would see each other play again, which was a couple days before, and it was tough,” Jack Hartman, senior baseball player, said. 

Hartman is one of 30 App State senior athletes whose final season ended suddenly, but better news came March 30 when the NCAA announced that all spring athletes would be granted an additional year of eligibility. This meant a chance at redemption for the seniors, giving them the option to compete in spring 2021.

“I was very privileged to hear that, and knowing that I have another opportunity is great, and I think not all schools are giving back their scholarships and everything, but our school is, so I think all of our seniors are taking that into consideration,” Sidney Russell, senior softball player, said.

Russell’s sophomore season was cut short due to a season-ending knee injury, and with her senior season ending prematurely, she wants to end her career on the right note. She already planned on returning to App State for academics, and because of the NCAA ruling, will play her final season while pursuing her master’s in nutrition. 

However, not every senior is finding themselves in an ideal situation. Most seniors, like men’s tennis player Milo Bargeron, planned to graduate this spring. Bargeron already began interviewing for jobs and now finds himself deciding between joining the working world and continuing his tennis career through a postgraduate program at App State or another school. 

“The people here are so friendly, even though they’re from other places. I feel like everyone is like a little family here in Boone,” Bargeron said. “Athletics do so much for us and it’s going to be tough to match it, but I feel like it might be time for a change.” 

Add Hartman to the list of conflicted seniors. He’s ranked 231 on D1Baseball’s Top 250 prospects list for the upcoming MLB draft, giving him a good chance at signing a big league contract this summer. But, with the uncertain future of the MLB, he finds himself in limbo between going back to school and playing professionally. 

“It’s really hard, I actually have this conversation a lot with my coach and family so it’s kind of a hard decision to tell right now,” Hartman said.  

Each spring senior athlete in the class of 2020 was looking forward to something this season. For Hartman, it was playing in front of a larger home crowd in their newly renovated stadium, a stadium he only played one game in. Russell looked forward to finishing her career with the friends and teammates she started it with. 

Eligibility may have been brought back to this year’s senior class, but the season won’t be. No matter what these seniors decide to do with their futures, the spring of 2020 will always be the season that never was.

Kaiden Smith is an athlete on the App State football team.