Local student athletes share perspectives on cancellation of spring sports seasons due to COVID-19

Senior Kelsey DinglerSenior Piper BakerSenior Javin ShirleyJunior Jacobe HartFreshman Sydney RigganJunior Maddi CarverSophomore Karsen Davis
Gerren Smith
Staff Writer

Since the shocking events of the outbreak of the coronavirus, it has had an enormous effect on everyone worldwide and the sports world in a major way.
No one would have predicted how serious this disease would play a major role in everyone’s life. But unfortunately, COVID-19 has made an impact to sadly affect millions of high school student-athletes across the nation.
It definitely has had an effect in the Natural State and April 9 will be a day for all high school coaches and athletes to remember the official announcement to cancel the spring sports season for the 2019-2020 school year.
The Arkansas Activities Association released a statement concerning the cancellation for the 2019-2020 spring sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After multiple conversations with the Arkansas Department of Health, the Governor’s office, the Arkansas Department of Education and with the announcement of the closure of Arkansas schools through the end of the school year, all remaining AAA spring activities, state championships, AHSCA Coaches Clinic, and All-Star games have been cancelled.”
The AAA Executive Director Lance Taylor said, “Today’s heart wrenching decision is difficult for all members of the AAA family. We sympathize with the students, coaches, parents, and school communities, and especially our graduating seniors, but we recognize that the cancellations will allow our collective focus to remain where it is needed at this time — on the health and safety of all Arkansans. We all must come together to stop the spread.”
Knowing this decision was hard to endure for everyone, several top-notch student-athletes of Hot Spring County shared their thoughts about the disappointment that COVID-19 has haunted their opportunities to participate in spring sports seasons for 2020.
On the diamond for baseball, Malvern Leopards’ Jacobe Hart was very disappointed to not get the chance to finish the season.
Hart is a junior and an outstanding multiple sport athlete in Malvern. Although Hart will return for his senior year next season, he feels heartbroken for his senior teammates to miss out on their most important and exciting year of their high school athletic careers.
“This is a big loss for our seniors. We are all a little devastated and just thinking about the seniors and my teammates,” Hart said.
Hart got the opportunity to play in several games for the Leopards baseball team this past season for his junior year.
Hart was a major contributor for the Leopards during his freshman and sophomore seasons. He helped Malvern qualify to play in the Class 4A state tournament for the 2018 and 2019 baseball seasons. He will miss playing with the seniors this season but hopefully looks forward to having a baseball season his senior year in 2021.
But for the Magnet Cove Panthers senior baseball player Javin Shirley, he will have to miss out on the chance to finish his final season on the diamond in high school.
Shirley is a standout baseball player for Magnet Cove. He has played all four seasons and has earned All-State and All-Conference honors.
He got to perform in seven games this season, but it’s still hurtful that he’s not going to finish out the rest of the season.
“It’s disappointing about the season ending. I have talked with other teammates about us not able to play again, but it has been fun,” he said.
As a pitcher and infielder, Shirley has been a part of the Panthers clinching a spot to play in the 2A regional and state tournaments throughout his high school baseball career.
On the hardwood, Magnet Cove Lady Panthers sophomore guard Karsen Davis was able to complete a full season of hoops for the 2019-2020 basketball season. Davis earned All-Conference honors for seasonal basketball accolades for her production during the season.
Although Davis got to showcase her talents with the Lady Panthers during basketball season, she feels heartbroken for the seniors, her friends and everyone who are a part of Magnet Cove’s spring sports programs that did not get a chance to complete a full season of competition.
“I feel really bad for all of them. I won’t get to see them play this year. It’s sad that I won’t get to finish school with them to spend time together. I will miss them next year,” Davis said.
For the softball season, many athletes have been heartbroken to not have the chance to showcase their talents on the diamond.
A few Glen Rose Lady Beavers have expressed their concerns about the season ending, but looks forward to playing next year.
Freshman starter Sydney Riggan looked forward to beginning her high school season with the Glen Rose Lady Beavers softball team. Riggan, who aims to be a college prospect softball player was disappointed the season ended. She was a manager for the team last season and got to experience the journey of Glen Rose competing at the state tournament.
Riggan said, “I’m very disappointed because I was excited to finally play softball in high school. I felt I have worked hard at playing up to this point, but did get to play four games.”
During this time off from the season, Riggan has practiced at home to keep her productive softball skills polished to stay ready for next season.
An upperclassman for the Glen Rose Lady Beavers Maddi Carver, a junior, has experience on the high-school level.
Carver hoped to have helped the Lady Beavers return to state this season, but knows it’s a devastating situation for her senior teammates.
She has enjoyed the time off, but not having the opportunity to play with her senior teammates and friends hurts the most.
“I originally loved the week off. Then the week started turning into more and more. I’ve played softball since I was little and I look forward to the season every year, Carver said.
“Nikki Schneider is a senior this year on our team and we grew up playing together. I was looking forward to our ‘last’ such as senior night, state tourney, and bus rides. Now that I will never get to play with her again it’s finally hit me super hard. While on the break I’ve been catching up on school work and hitting patiently waiting for the season to come back,” Carver said.
For soccer, Malvern is the only high school in Hot Spring County where this sport is played.
The hometown Malvern Leopards and Lady Leopards got to play a few games this season, but competed against tough competition. It was unfortunate Malvern’s soccer season was cut very short, but two seniors of the Lady Leopards were very hopeful to finish their final careers in May.
Seniors Piper Baker and Kelsey Dingler are two of Malvern’s outstanding all-around female student-athletes. Last season, Baker earned All-State and Dingler received All-Conference for the Lady Leopards soccer team. Before the official announcement from AAA making the decision to cancel all spring sports seasons, Baker and Dingler both expressed their feelings on how COVID-19 had affected sports this season. They were very hopeful to get a chance to finish the season and exercised to stay in shape during the time off.
Baker said, “I would say that suspending and possibly canceling our season has been extremely difficult. Since it is technically not cancelled, the only thing I can do right now is stay in shape anyway I can and hope my fellow teammates have done the same. If we do get to come back, I know I will be ready. Last year I received all-state and my goal this year was to receive that again and possibly play in the all-star game and that opportunity could be gone.”
“Soccer is a sport I’ve been playing since I was six, and since I’m not going to play in college, it is my last year and it might be over with. It has been extremely hard to come to terms with that, but I know everything happens for a reason,” Baker added.
Dingler stated, “This time has not been easy in the slightest for me personally. I’m the kind of person that stays busy, and this abrupt change in my lifestyle has taken much time to adjust to. I spend time out in my backyard running miles at a time and doing workouts inside my house to try to stay as in shape as I can in hopes of getting to play again.”
“When I’m not working out, I’m applying for scholarships or picking up hobbies just to keep myself busy like I normally would be. Knowing that my senior season might be completely taken from me hurts. This was supposed to be my season, like many of the other seniors. We’ve worked for four years, and sometimes more, to finish out our senior season at our strongest, and now, we may never step onto a field (or even our school) again,” she said.
Dingler also added, “This was in no way how I’ve dreamed of my senior year playing out, but I can’t help but to have hope that I will get to play again with my team, hope that I will get to sit in a classroom with my peers of over 12 years, and hope that it will all work out in the end. Because in all this chaos around us, we have to hold on to some form of hope, no matter how little it is.”
The AAA plans to continue to receive guidance from the Arkansas Dept. of Health, the Governor’s office, and the Arkansas Dept. of Education.
Also the AAA wishes to thank each Arkansas department office for their leadership during this COVID-19 pandemic.