BY STEPHANIE PANNY
Last year, Isabella Popson only got a handful of opportunities before the COVID-19 pandemic halted her junior track & field season.
Now a senior, Popson knows she has to make each opportunity count.
“It’s really unfortunate that this is the kind of season we have to have, with the shortened amount of meets and stuff,” said Popson, a high jumper for Hanover Area. “But we just have to make the best out of it. Work with what we can, and try our best every time.”
Monday was probably the first time many spring sports athletes had taken part in school-affiliated athletics since this time last year. The upcoming season will be the first time they will compete in their respective sports since 2019 because of the pandemic.
Wyoming Valley West softball coach Jessica Ras said she was excited to see what her players would bring to the table for Monday’s practice. By the end of it, she believed the team “looked good,” but still had some things to work on.
Spartans infielder Samantha Adamski said she was “devastated” when COVID-19 took her junior season, but she’s ready to “take it back.” Junior Morgan Mcnew said they’re following the lead of seniors like Adamski, Courtney May and Katie DeCosmo – all of whom are focusing on the present.
“Heading into the first practice, I didn’t want to focus on all the negative,” Adamski said. “I actually want to forget COVID, almost. I want to have the best last year and just leave it all on the field.”
While last year’s seniors were robbed of their final season, the juniors were robbed of an important one as well. Hanover Area track & field coach Al Weston said athletic development for juniors is crucial for setting the foundation for a senior season, because things click mentally, physically and technically.
The junior year season is also a important for collegiate recruiting. For spring athletes who want to pursue their sport after high school, junior year is when college coaches really look at their progress because they will apply to schools the next fall.
Adamski has already committed to play at a Division III school, so she’s looking at the upcoming season as more of a practice year for college. But it’s harder for seniors like Popson, who don’t know if their athletic careers will continue after graduation.
Popson said it’s been hard talking to college coaches about potentially joining their teams because they only have stats from her sophomore year. While she’s already been accepted to colleges, whether she makes a team will depend on how she does this year.
Popson said it made her first day of practice more serious than fun.
“We don’t have a lot of time to work with this season,” Popson said. “I just count my blessings every day that we’ll be up here and that (the season) won’t be cancelled like last year.”
Ras said the 2020 cancellation put a new perspective on the game for many athletes. She hopes this year’s seniors, who saw others have their final season ripped away, truly “understand and appreciate” what it’s like to play the entire year.
“You really have to appreciate every moment that you have playing because it could get taken away from you,” Ras said. “That is something we try and always stress to the girls to realize that any game can be your last. I think it was a very good telling for them that something like this could happen.”
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