The season had started. Practice schedules were set, travel plans made, games on the calendar.
Nothing at all.
No practice. No travel. No games. Just go home.
For college athletes, that meant packing up dorm rooms and making arrangements for other living quarters. It meant figuring out how classes were going to look online and what to do to keep their skills sharp.
Area athletes are adjusting.
Some were on the road when they learned about the season’s screeching halt.
“We were in Florida for spring break, about halfway through the trip,” Kate Mullally said.
Mullally is a sophomore pitcher for Creighton University.
“We started looking on Twitter and social media and started to see it crumble over the span of two days,” she said.
The announcement came during a game, she said. About half the coaching staff knew, but they didn’t say anything until the game was over.
“There were three other teams around, and there was hysterical crying,” Mullally said. “It was really sad.”
The Bluejays couldn’t find a flight the whole team could share, so the team stayed three extra days in Florida.
“We went to the beach,” Mullally said. “That was our goal, to have one last time all together.”
They got back to Omaha Saturday night and hung out together.
“It was so defeating,” Mullally said. “It’s said not to even be able to compete for a championship. We never even got to try.”
Many classes were already online, so that adjustment wasn’t too difficult, she said.
“I miss the classroom setting, having someone directly explain things to you,” she said. “It’s kind of boring – there are so many distractions.”
She’s currently taking five classes in advertising/journalism. Philosophy is the most difficult, but being away from the ballfield allows her to focus more on school, she said.
As a pitcher, Mullally is keeping her skills sharp by throwing with her father like she used to in high school.
“He’s excited to get to catch with me,” she said with a smile. “I love it. It’s like the good old days.”
Coaches have sent workouts, and she does what she can.
“I’m trying to stay in the best shape I can,” she said.
Meyer and Mensik
The Doane University baseball team found itself in the same boat, freshmen Brett Meyer and Nate Mensik said.
The Tigers found out during spring break that their season had ended.
Mensik said two days after they got home the NAIA started talking about canceling the spring seasons. Two weeks after they got back, the season was done.
“At practice, coach said it could get canceled,” Meyer said.
He was disappointed.
“I was having a good time with it. Baseball is something I’ve always loved,” he said.
Meyer had been given a shot on varsity and took advantage of the opportunity.
“I was seeing the ball well,” he said, adding that the game is better when you’re relaxed and having fun.
“It’s just way different,” Mensik said. “Everything in the schedule changed. It’s been crazy for everybody. It hit so fast – I couldn’t believe it was happening.”
Meyer is trying to keep his skills sharp lifting weights with friends from high school, hitting into a batting net and playing catch with friends – no more than groups of 10, he said.
“This is the first spring I haven’t played baseball,” he said. “It’s been so beautiful – perfect baseball weather.”
Online classes allow Meyer to spread out his coursework, with assignments due on Sundays. He said his class load is lighter this semester because he’d planned to be gone with baseball. Two online courses finished in March, so he was familiar with the procedures.
He’s trying to maintain a daily schedule, doing classwork in the morning and work and other activities in the afternoon and evening.
“I miss being on the baseball field with some of my best friends,” he said.
Mensik said it’s been nice to be home with family. He’s been throwing with his dad and hitting in his batting cage. He’s doing what he can to stay in shape, running and doing pull-ups on trees.
He said biology has been a tough class to switch to online because of the lab component. He said the teacher has had the students watching videos and conducting simple lab projects with items found at home.
“I miss the people – all the friends I’ve made,” Mensik said. “
Meyer said the team’s seniors are planning to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility allotted by the NAIA.
“That will help team chemistry,” he said.
“I think that’s a super good idea,” Mensik said of the extra year. “I hope most take it.”
This summer, both are planning to play in the Cornbelt League in Omaha on a team coached by Doane’s coach Engel.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing,” Meyer said.
Kendra Placke, a sophomore golfer at Concordia University, was in Dallas with teammate Murphy Sears and another friend the week before everything halted.
“It was all over social media,” she said. “On the drive home, we talked about what if school was canceled. But Concordia is always the last to close.”
Sears was also concerned about losing her senior season, which hadn’t really started yet.
“We got the email, and I was devastated,” Placke said. “I was really excited for the spring season. I’m glad I’m not a senior so I have something to look forward to.”
The Bulldogs had played well the first two days of the GPAC tournament, she said. Golfers played 36 holes in one day and were able to take carts around the course, neither of which is normal.
“It was really weird,” Placke said. “It all happened so fast.”
A lot of Placke’s teammates live in Seward, so she sees them sometimes.
She’s been trying to stay in a routine, taking her classes online and playing golf when she can. The switch to online was not difficult, she said. The biggest challenge is remembering when assignments and projects are due without the in-class reminders.
“It’s a lot of self-discipline,” she said.
The team meets via Zoom on Mondays to stay connected, and the Bulldogs have a group Snapchat, as well.
“Thank goodness for technology,” Placke said.
The timing was even worse for Kelsie Zadina and her Hastings College basketball teammates. The Broncos were at the national tournament in Sioux City. They’d been hearing rumblings on social media as they made the trip to Sioux City. Event cancellations were beginning even then.
The Broncos were at a shoot-around before their first game when the announcement that the tournament was canceled was made.
“Everyone was speechless,” Zadina said. “It was definitely not what we expected. It was instant shock.”
The sophomore said the following days were strange. Everyone went home and that was it.
“There was no chance to say goodbye,” she said.
The team has met via Zoom and hopes to have an end-of-year banquet at some point, Zadina said.
Zadina tore her ACL in practice before the national tournament and barely got in for surgery before elective procedures were canceled. She’s been spending time rehabbing the knee and finishing her online class.
“I’ve watched a lot of Netflix,” she said with a grin. “If I could move around more, maybe I wouldn’t be as bored.”
She’s spent time cleaning and organizing the items she moved back home with. Interior redecorating and renovations are also filling her time. Rehab will continue for the rest of the summer, as well.
“I feel like I should be at school,” she said.
She misses being around her friends, especially since the good-byes were so quick and sudden.
“Now it feels really weird,” she said.
All are trying to keep a positive attitude through the season.
“It all happens for a reason,” Mullally said.
Instead of sulking, Mullally is adding to her skills. She’s learned the ukulele.
“The biggest lesson I’ve learned from it all is to never take anything for granted,” Zadina said, “whether it’s sports or even something as simple as our daily routines.”
Mullally, Meyer, Placke and Zadina are graduates of Seward High. Mensik graduated from Milford.