MAHOPAC, N.Y. – Little by little, the spring school and sports season is being taken down, one piece at a time.
On Monday, the NYSPHSAA announced that all spring state tournaments have been canceled. Each section will determine its own fate as far as a spring season, with sections 8 and 11 having already shut down all spring events.
The idea of reaching the state tournament was probably the most realistic for the softball team—with a flamethrower named Shannon Becker. But realistically, every Indians student-athlete is simply hoping to even see a school, a field, a gymnasium—or even their friends—this spring.
“I think probably the last thing on people’s minds is a state championship tournament,” said Mahopac Athletic Director Frank Miele. “We’re hoping to get our kids back on the field for a game, five games, 10 games. The hope is just to get the kids on the field.”
Time for a return to school is quickly running out, but no one wants to pull the plug until there’s no choice.
“No one wants to put a stamp on this; that the season is over,” Miele said. “Our kids have done an unbelievable job of staying engaged online doing schoolwork. This is something we’ve never seen, and everyone has been as positive as can be. Still working out, keeping hope. But as each day goes by, everyone is concerned. Some are even concerned about the fall season. At this point, it’s hard to see a way of getting back, and keeping everyone safe.
“And that’s a hard thing,” Miele added. “These are such great kids; they’ve worked their backsides off. When this is over, kids are going to appreciate all these things—being around friends, being in class. High school is the greatest time ever for kids—prom, Senior Night, etc. You can ‘Zoom’ or whatever, but it’s still not the same.”
Miele said adults and students are learning during this health crisis.
“We’re in a situation where everyone is learning some valuable lessons,” Miele said. “Not to take anything for granted, no matter how old you are. I think we have more of an appreciation for what we had. Hopefully we’ll learn… families are getting together for dinner, being together.”
Seniors on Mahopac’s spring boys and girls track and field teams, along with coaches, teachers and just about all of their classmates, are learning new lessons, and finding out how much they miss each other—and the things they used to take for granted.
“I was grateful before, but this situation has made me realize that there are tons of little things in our everyday routines that we subconsciously take for granted,” said Emma Ranaghan, a sprinter. “My main takeaway is that nothing is guaranteed, and it’s important to come together as a community during hard times like this to support each other.”
Ranaghan is one of nine seniors on second-year coach Kelley Posch’s girls team. They include Ava Copeland, Fiona Sheeran, Violet Haberling, Haven Wittmann, Ilia Arcery, Yvonne Fu, Angjela Lika, and April Heady.
Fu summed up several teammates’ thoughts: “The most important lesson that I’ve learned through this experience is to appreciate every little thing you have,” Fu said. “Family, friends, classes, the ability to participate in extracurricular activities. They say you only appreciate it when you lose it—and that’s true. If our lives ever return to normal, remember to notice the little things in life and never take anything for granted.”
Those daily moments are what seniors are all missing.
“The hardest part of this situation is not being able to have the same senior year experience as past students,” Copeland said. “The feeling that we are missing out on special moments and events.”
Wittmann said some experiences can’t be replaced.
“I’d be beyond disappointed if everything is canceled,” she said. “I became a different, more outgoing person over the last four years. I tried new things even if they were scary for me. I’ll probably miss my graduation the most. That would be the last time to see all of my friends, have my cap and gown, cords to represent the clubs I’ve joined. It’s the time where everyone knows it’s probably the last time you’ll see your high school friends and those you’ve grown up with. It’s an experience that I will miss, I want a chance to say goodbye and take pictures of those I’ve made memories with.”
Many of the seniors have also gained a new appreciation for health care workers.
“I’m starting to appreciate the people working in the hospitals and first responders more than I have in the past,” Sheeran said. “While I’ve always appreciated them, seeing the pictures and videos of what they are going through on a daily basis has helped open my eyes to the reality of the situation.”
Posch said that what students are missing out on is a big deal.
“I think the biggest thing they’re missing is the joy of every day interaction,“ she said. “At practice, in the hallway… I think those little moments are something we’ll have a better appreciation for. It’s not fair for them to miss these milestone accomplishments, but they’ll look back one day and it won’t hurt so much. It’s heartbreaking that so many moments will be lost, and already have been lost.
“But they’ve left their mark on the program,” Posch added. “They all contributed to a huge culture change that will be their legacy, even if we don’t have this spring. This is a great group - on and off the track.”
Vin Collins and his boys team also had high hopes for a good season, with 11 seniors, including Nick Ahearn, Connor Atton, Chris Evangelista, AJ Golebiowski, Seth Gunzburg, Andy He, Haley He, Tyler Levitz, Miles McDermott, Matthew McMahon, and Dylan Smith.
“Most of them have been with us four years,” Collins said. “They were looking forward to this year, their last go-round. I think they were primed and ready to go, and there was a lot of enthusiasm.
“I think what they miss most is not being with their teammates, with friends,” Collins added. “I think that’s big. They always talk about how big team is to them, I think they miss the camaraderie, the practices, being with each other. They consider the team to be a second family.”
Evangelista, a four-year varsity sprinter, echoed Collins’ point. “The hardest part about the situation is the lack of human connection,” Evangelista said. “Whether it be school or the track team.
“And I’m developing a newfound appreciation for people in general,” Evangelista added. “The more time I spend in quarantine, the more I realize that I’ve squandered some of the time I’ve spent with people. Being quarantined has also led me to be more introspective and appreciate life more as a whole.”
The opportunity to build relationships is something many seniors talked about.
“If the season were to be canceled today, the one thing I’ll miss the most is the friendships that we build in practice,” said Haley He, second-year sprinter. “Each day we encourage each other and work hard in practice. We would always give 100 percent.”
“I feel like everyone is looking at the world differently now,” Andy He added. “This whole situation has definitely impacted everyone.”
Smith said he’ll miss teammates.
“I’m most disappointed missing the season with my friends,” he said. “The hardest part is not being able to enjoy what I have left of my senior year—it will feel like there’s no closure.”
McMahon, a four-year miler and relay runner, summed up a bigger perspective.
“Though I’m optimistic about getting an opportunity to compete this spring, this is still a bigger issue than sports,” he said. “Obviously I’d rather be out on the track right now with my teammates and coaches, but losing that chance shouldn’t be, and isn’t, my main concern. I’m more concerned about the health and safety of our community and world as a whole as we endure this unfortunately difficult and trying situation together. Once we ensure the health and safety of everyone, we can get back to enjoying the wonderful experiences and memories that sports bring to our lives and never take those times for granted again.”
Golebiowski, like many, often recall that final day of practice.
“The hardest part of all this is not being able to say goodbye,” he said. “On the last day of practice, I had no idea that I could be saying goodbye to the sport I love.
“And I definitely took going out to eat, seeing my friends every day, for granted,” Golebiowski added. “I’ll definitely be appreciating every moment like that in the future.”
When asked about their own idea of how that “perfect” senior season might go, the answers were no surprise—lots of laughs, hearing their teammates and coaches cheer them on, wins, trophies, medals, and health.
“My perfect senior season would be one where I was able to have tons of laughs with the team, break my personal bests, and leave the team knowing I had a positive impact along with the other senior captains,” Ranaghan said. “I’d be super grateful for any form of a season right now.”
“Have more bus-ride adventures,” Whittmann said. “Have another rainy meet at Arlington High School, cheer my teammates and friends on, hear Coach Collins give the sprinters our workout, and say ‘Bye-Bye Katy Out the Back Door.’ I wanted to embrace our new coach as a part of our team and learn as much as we could with the time we had left.”
The thought of losing the rest of the school year leaves some students feeling like a story without an ending.
“I feel like I am missing an ending to a chapter in my life,” Evangelista said. “I feel like I’m missing the finality of a part of my life.”