It was a decision that was not unexpected, but it was still a punch in the gut to athletes who play spring sports at Monona Grove and McFarland high schools.
Following an April 21 ruling by the WIAA, the spring sports seasons at all Wisconsin high schools have been cancelled to reduce the spread of COVID-19, a virus that has already killed hundreds of state residents and sickened thousands more.
The decision came less than a week after Gov. Tony Evers cancelled the remainder of the school year.
For those who play, coach or watch their children participate in spring sports such as baseball, softball, track and field, girls soccer, boys tennis and boys golf, the move was justifiable.
But for the graduating seniors, it meant the end of their high school athletic careers before graduation.
Senior Lizzy Fortune, who plays on the McFarland High School softball team with her younger sister Maddy, was saddened by the news but also looked at the bright side.
“I am very glad that I have had three previous seasons on the varsity softball team,” Lizzy Fortune said. “I am grateful to everyone that has reached out to me. I understand the reasoning behind the decision.”
Trish Fortune, who coaches volleyball at McFarland and was an avid spectator at her daughter’s games, said she feels very bad for Lizzy, who will not be on the playing field in her final high school semester.
“I am bummed that they are missing out on the memories, competition and playing the game they love with each other and their friends this spring,” Trish Fortune said. “But, in high school, Lizzy and Maddy have been lucky enough to play two volleyball seasons and one softball season together, so we are very thankful for that. They have been on very good teams and have made lifelong memories with each other and their teammates.
“It is beyond our control and it’s important to continue to practice gratitude and grace during these times.”
The spring sports cancellation is also a sad moment for Monona Grove High School senior Allison Gibbons, who played on the girls soccer team. She said she has been playing soccer since age 5, and she is heartbroken she won’t be able to play in her final semester.
However, she said the team and its coaches have been keeping in touch with each other via the internet.
“As much as I want to play my final high school soccer season at Monona Grove, I am beyond blessed for the memories it gave me and the memories it continues to give me throughout this pandemic,” Gibbons said. “I couldn’t be more blessed for the ladies I have played with and the coaches who have shaped me into the hardworking, motivated person I am today.”
Monona Grove High School girls soccer coach Natasha Lippitt said her team’s online discussions have been helpful to the players, who may be having a difficult time understanding the situation.
“These are difficult times for our school, program, community and beyond. We want our local community to know that we are still out there trying our best and navigating these uncertain times and most importantly still having some fun along the way,” Lippitt said.
She added there have been many discussions on how to connect with the freshmen, who have not met the other players, and how the team can still engage with the community even though this season’s matches have been cancelled
“I would give this entire group an A+ grade with lots of extra credit to make happen what we have so far,” she said. “We are proud of the entire program and resiliency all of our players have demonstrated so far. We will get through these challenging times and the only way to do that is together.”
Monona Grove High School boys golf coach Dan Zweifel said the WIAA had no choice but to pull the plug on the spring sports season.
“They extended the season as long as they could so I applaud them for that,” said Zweifel, who also coaches MG’s boys basketball team.
“All I can say to the seniors is that better days are ahead. Take today and organize yourself for tomorrow and the future.”
McFarland High School athletic director and head football coach Paul Ackley also empathized with the seniors and the loss of their final spring sports season.
“Our hearts and thoughts go out to our seniors. We know there are no words that will replace the memories that were lost from this situation,” Ackley said. “We wish them the best of luck with their future endeavors.”