End of school year, spring sports season ‘heartbreaking’ for senior athletes

Washougal athletic director says 'memories of walking off the court or field or track for the last time can’t be replaced'

Camas High School senior Dauda Woodruff is one of the Papermakers' best soccer players. He will continue his career at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. (Post-Record file photo)

Washougal High senior Gracie Dolan practices her take-off in the long jump at a practice session last month. (Post-Record file photo)

Camas High School softball player Sophie Franklin was "shocked" when she heard that the spring sports season had been cancelled due the outbreak of COVID-19. Franklin, a senior, will continue her career at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon.

Brevan Bea has always been a three-sport athlete. 

And while his future lies on the gridiron — Bea will play football for Central Washington University next season — the Washougal High senior has always valued his time on the baseball diamond. 

To Bea, baseball is his “relaxing sport,” an opportunity to bond with friends on the field and at practice. That’s why Bea was devastated to hear that he won’t be able to take the field with his buddies one last time this spring due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

“It’s really hard,” Bea said. “I get why we’re taking all of these precautions, but it sucks for us. We always thought we’d get a little bit of season, but it is what it is. In terms of facing adversity, I see it as a challenge. This is our test. It’s something that we’ll get through sooner or later, and life will get back to normal. This helps us understand what could happen, and will prepare us for what’s to come.”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced earlier this month that all private and public K-12 schools in the state will remain closed through the end of the 2019-20 school year. The order included the cancellation of all extracurricular athletics and activities.

“The decision was undoubtedly a difficult one for Governor Inslee,” a news release issued by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) stated. “However, it was done so to keep the students and families of Washington safe. The WIAA executive board and the WIAA staff feel for those students around the state that have had their seasons or careers cut short. This terrible disease has not only prevented students from creating lifelong memories through competition, but it has limited the valuable lessons gained through participation in education-based athletics and activities.”

WIAA officials had previously expressed a desire holding “some sort of culminating event” for spring student-athletes if schools went back into session in May. News of the school year’s cancellation and, with it, the spring sports season, is “devastating,” said Camas High School athletic director Rory Oster. 

“For a 17-year-old student-athlete, (sports) are their world, one of the most important things in their lives,” Oster said. “It’s unthinkable. It shouldn’t happen to these kids. It just sucks. They worked so hard to compete and do great things this year. They’ll miss out on a ton, but more than anything they’ll miss out on three more months with their buddies. It’s pretty brutal.”

‘Heartbreaking’ for seniors

The decision to cancel the spring sports season was especially crushing to Camas-Washougal high school seniors, since many were waiting until their final prep year to accomplish their main athletic goals — from earning a starting spot or captaincy to qualifying for a state meet competition or even winning a state title.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Washougal High athletic director Gary McGarvie. “The memories of walking off the court or field or track for the last time can’t be replaced. The seniors won’t get a ‘senior night’ or banquet. They won’t get a chance to say good-bye. It’s horrible. And it’s even more emotional and impactful when you come from a small town like Washougal, where the kids have grown up together and are basically brothers and sisters. For years they all thought about how awesome their senior year was going to be, and it was taken away from them.”

Camas senior Zander Samodurov, a two-time all-4A Greater St. Helens League selection, was “devastated when (he) heard the season was cancelled.”

“I had been looking forward to this season for a long time,” said Samodurov, who will continue his career with the Everton Football Club while attending Liverpool John Hopkins University in Liverpool, England. “In the last couple years, I wasn’t able to take the reins and captain the team as much I’d like to. For me and my friends, this was our chance to take control and lead the program to success that it hadn’t had in the last couple of years.”

Senior Sophie Franklin, the Camas softball team’s all-league center fielder, was “shocked” when she found out that her prep career had come to a premature conclusion.

“I’m going to miss making memories with the underclassmen,” said Franklin, who will continue her softball career at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, Oregon. “I know the juniors and seniors, but I won’t get to know the sophomores and freshmen, and that’s upsetting and disappointing. It hurts that I’ll never get to play on my high school field wearing my high school number again. It’s very sad. I’m lucky enough to play in college, but some other seniors aren’t, and they won’t get a last game. I feel really bad for them. It’s awful.”

Finding reasons for optimism

Local student-athletes are coping with their disappointment by staying busy in their unexpected free time. Some are working out to stay in shape for their upcoming college careers. Others are spending more time with family and friends, focusing on schoolwork and finding new interests.

“It’s weird,” said Washougal High sophomore Jaiden Bea, who was set to compete in the javelin, high jump and relay events for the Panthers’ girls track and field team this spring. “I’m not used to having this much time off.” 

Spending more time at home, however, has been beneficial, Jaiden Bea said. “I’m getting a lot of home projects done, spending more time with my family, finding new things to do, setting new goals and discovering new things about myself.”

Brevan Bea said his spare time is spent “always fixing things,” because “when you live on a farm, things always go wrong.” 

Washougal High senior track and field athlete Judson Mansfield recently built a pig pen for his 4-H club. And Washougal junior Skylar Bea is completing chores, taking morning walks with her grandmother and perfecting her baking skills instead of playing for the Panthers’ girls tennis team this spring.

“I’ve been doing a lot of different things,” Skylar Bea said. “I just don’t want to be bored, thinking how I could be playing tennis. Staying busy is a good way to (avoid) that.”

Some young athletes have turned to their teammates for virtual support.

“I was disappointed because I was really looking forward to the season,” said Camas senior soccer player Dauda Woodruff, who will continue his career at Yavapai College in Prescott, Arizona. “We were going to have a great team, and I really wanted one more year of playing with the boys. It’s frustrating. But we’ll have (online) group chats, and we can talk to each other and try to stay positive. I tell my teammates that I love them, I miss them, I pray for them, and to try not to feel bad. We’re helping each other. And we play ‘FIFA.’ I play a lot against Lowell Frazier. He’s pretty good.”

Playing the ‘what-if’ game

The majority of Camas-Washougal spring sports squads had high hopes for their 2019-20 campaigns.

The Papermakers’ baseball team appeared to be in position to advance to the 4A state tournament for a second consecutive year, while the Camas softball squad was reloading for a run at a fourth consecutive state trip. And the school’s boys and girls track and field teams were expected to feature some of the best athletes in the area in a variety of events. 

“I play the ‘what-if’ game every day,” Oster said. “I think we could’ve won at least six league titles this spring. We had a strong senior class this year, as evidenced by their performances in other sports. It’s unfortunate for them and the school that we won’t be able to celebrate what they would’ve accomplished.”

There was plenty of reason for optimism at Washougal High as well. The school’s baseball team, in particular, was poised for a breakthrough similar to what the Panthers’ football and boys basketball teams experienced earlier in the school year. 

“We have great individual athletes in track and field,” McGarvie said. “We had a young lady who is a phenomenal tennis athlete transfer (to Washougal High). We have a freshman golfer who looks like a superstar. Our baseball and softball teams are getting better. But it’s not just about (the wins and losses). It’s about the time spent together. That’s a special opportunity that’s been lost.”

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