Sports grind to halt at SPU

Athletes react to season cut short

Daniel Newman, Sports Editor

oars stacked on a rack
Blake Dahlin
The shell-house in the rear of Royal Brougham Pavilion serves as a headquarters for the team. the oars, boats, and other equipment are stored here.

On March 12, 2020, students and athletes across campus were spending the day studying for finals and finishing up assignments. Cross-country runners junior Elius Graff and sophomore Colby Otero showed up at track practice. Meanwhile, sports seasons were being canceled left and right in the professional world. 

“At that point I knew that the rest of the season would look very different, but had no idea how long this was going to last,” Graff said. “I guess I just really hoped that this would last a few weeks and, by the end of the season, things would be normal.”

But as Graff and the team were warming up and stretching, the coaches arrived and told them that, while they didn’t know many details, the season was canceled. 

“It almost felt like an out-of-body experience, being there with everyone dressed up and prepared to work out, just to be told that the coaches would be there for emotional support, but that there would be no practice for the foreseeable future,” Graff said.

Otero had similar feelings. 

“Everything happened so fast. It was hard to process and accept,” he said. “It was really just a confusing time. We were all just standing around with a kind of deer-in-the-headlights look for five minutes just asking, ‘What now?’”

While the NCAA announced that spring-sport seniors would get an extra year of eligibility, this is not yet the case for winter sport athletes. 

The men’s basketball team’s and women’s gymnastics team’s possible playoff hopes were dashed, and the careers of their seniors are now finished. The men’s basketball team was in San Diego, about to play in a tournament game, when they found out that the season was canceled.

Men’s basketball head coach Grant Leep was disappointed that the season was canceled but, at the same time, he understood.

“It became a reminder for me that nothing is promised. We did what we needed to do to qualify for the tournament, but that wasn’t promised to us. It doesn’t erase the growth we made, the conference championship we won and the 22 games we won this season.” Leep said. 

This was also a crushing blow to the gymnastics team as they were fighting to qualify for the United States of America Gymnastics Championships as a team for the first time since 2016.

While quarantine is not ideal for athletes, it can still bring some good things. Graff used to love running because he was able to compete for his school and his team.

“While I still believe in all of those things, I think now the sport is really another way for me to express who I am as a person, I love being outside, exploring and taking in the world,” Graff said. 

Otero also has learned valuable life lessons from running. 

“I just love competing, and collegiate running has given me a chance to dedicate myself and show my emotions in a constructive and healthy way,” he said. 

The cancellation of sports is something that is no doubt disappointing to all involved. Instead of focusing on the negative, Leep remains focused on the positive. 

“Rather than focusing on what we lost or don’t have, we can remain focused on what we do have and find ways to improve and get better in the midst of this reality we are facing right now.” Leep said.

This advice is something that both Graff and Otero are putting into practice in their own sports, continuing to train separately until the pandemic settles down. 

“I’m just gonna continue to go on my jogs, eat my spinach and hope that everything begins to calm down and return to normal. Stay safe folks,” Otero said.