Defending champs

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the two-time defending state champion Poynette softball team will not get a chance at its third title this spring.

The unknown has been the most difficult part of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic for Poynette athletic director Jessica McCracken.

“The most challenging part of this whole situation is the uncertainty, especially at the start of the spring,” McCracken said. “Now it is all based on keeping everyone healthy. It does begin to weigh on you because everything is such a momentous decision. Not knowing what things are going to look like makes it difficult.”

The Pumas’ girls and boys track and field teams had begun practicing when the WIAA canceled all spring sports due to the pandemic. The other Poynette programs had not yet started.

“It’s heartbreaking to watch the kids put in so much work in the offseason and past seasons and then not be able to compete,” McCracken said. “It has been really busy time but not for the fun stuff like going from field to field to cheer on our athletes.”

The situation is especially tough for this year’s senior class, which never got a chance to compete one final time.

“All athletes have lost a season, but for most seniors this was their last chance to compete,” McCracken said. “In talking to the athletes, their favorite part of sports is being with friends and they are not getting to do that. They are missing the comradery. But our kids are resilient. What they lost as seniors will shape them into strong adults.”

McCracken has been keeping in touch with athletes and coaches during the Governor’s Safer-at-Home order. Recently, she has been communicating with the coaches about what the WIAA approved 30-day summer contact period will look like.

“The Capitol Conference is not scheduling conference events, but are leaving it up to individual schools,” McCracken said. “Some of the schools have put out what their 30-day period will look like, but we are waiting. I don’t want to give the kids false hope until we know what everything is going to look like in July. We are going to look at what the guidelines will be and then go from there. We may have teams run things like or a camp or schedule games. We are committed to giving the kids an experience if everything meets the guidelines.”

Because of the Safer-at-Home order, the 30-day contact period can not start until July 1.

If they go through with the 30-day contact period, the Pumas may have to find some new spaces to hold practices and games. Due to the district’s capitol maintenance plan, the track at Elgie Noble Athletic Field may get some work done.

“We may be limited on space because they may end up redoing the track this summer,” McCracken said. “We may have to get creative with what we do.”

McCracken thinks high school athletics will go through some changes due to the pandemic. The biggest will be the mentality of the athletes.

“I don’t think any kid who is in a sport is going to forget the appreciation they have for what you gain from playing,” McCracken said. “Winning is great, but it is all about the other things that go with playing sports, including being with teammates and facing challenges.”

McCracken is excited for whenever the prep sports world does start up again.

“I won’t have a problem watching a game in the rain because I’ll just be happy to be back out supporting our athletes and coaches,” McCracken said. “From now on, I will appreciate being able to watch our students compete.”

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