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Preparing for the new normal / July 02, 2020

When the COVID-19 pandemic stopped all of sports across the U.S. in March, it marked a place in time that most Americans will never forget – whether one is a sports fan or not.

On a local level, high and middle school sports abruptly stopped, as were various other recreation sports leagues. One consequence of the stoppage was senior student-athletes who played a spring sport weren’t able to compete in their final year of high school.

Another season of sports is fast coming upon us and student-athletes who are Comet seniors this school year have their own set of thoughts and concerns. A return to school and a return to sports among them.

Five Halifax County High School Comets recently offered up their own opinions on sports and school as they prepare to enter their senior year. Discussing everything from how the cancellation of spring sports last season made them feel to how they see this school year progressing in a COVID-19 era.

Luke Redd, who is on the cross country and tennis teams; Drew Salley, cross country and tennis; Trevor Riddle, cross country and tennis; Alex Driggs, cross country and tennis; and JT Francis, who holds down three sports, cross country, wrestling and tennis; said no matter how things unfold this school year, adapting to new things and trying to remain focused will be a constant challenge.

The students said when the pandemic stopped their spring sports season, at that time they felt things would return to normal. Not long after that, their feelings would change.

“I knew it was going to be tough losing my junior year athletics during the pandemic,” Riddle said. “I was really looking forward to playing because I knew our team (tennis) was going to be extremely solid. When schools closed this spring, the first thing in mind was if this would ruin my senior year or not.”

The tennis team from last year made the VHSL state playoffs. The team was looking to make back-to-back appearances.

“When schools first closed for two weeks at the beginning of the virus spreading, I believed we would return immediately,” Francis said. “After schools closed for the rest of the year, I was unsure if we’d return next year. I am hopeful we will though.”

“When I heard that spring sports might be cancelled I was disappointed because our team had been preparing to go to the state tournament two years in a row but our season was cut very short,” Redd said. “When school was cancelled I thought everything would be over but as the months went by it began to affect the upcoming year and I didn’t think it would.”

Salley said, “When I realized tennis was going to be canceled I was highly upset. I had looked forward to playing all year and for it to end so abruptly was terrible.

“When school got cancelled I thought we would just continue the year online but I never would have thought that our senior year would be affected in anyway. I thought we would just do these online classes and then everything would return to normal next year.”

“I hope school goes back to how it was but I really didn’t put any thought into how it would go down,” Driggs said.

For the most part they didn’t think the virus would alter a return to school in the fall. And most definitely didn’t think the fall sports schedule would be affected.

But soon other events taking place would have them wondering not only about a fall sports season but also about their senior year in general.

Driggs said he had a feeling from June that sports were going to be delayed if not outright cancelled this season.

“I kinda doubted that sports would start back up,” Driggs said. “I doubt there will be sports at HCHS this year because our governor is really strict about social distancing.”

“I also thought sports would be back as normal I thought that really everything in the world would be back to normal by the time we started to go back to school,” Salley said. “When I realized that sports may not be happening or may not be the same I was devastated. I had started to train for cross country and the thought that I won’t have my senior season was scary and sad, but I think that there will be sports they will just be done with more precautions.”

“I figured that if school did not resume as normal on schedule, we wouldn’t have a fall sports season,” Riddle explained. “I feel like there’s a possibility of having all three sports seasons. I think that if things get better with the pandemic there could possibly be a season. I still have full hope that there will be sports seasons for all of the athletes.”

Francis noting that not being able to play out your junior or senior season would be the double whammy.

“I just hope that sports will return as usual,” said Francis. “Seniors last year were devastated at not being able to play their final year in sports.

“I think not playing my last two would be worse. I am unsure as to how sports will return. All I can do is hope that everything can go back to something close to normal.”

Redd said, “I also thought sports in the fall would be the same so I had something to look forward to. I’ve been worried about fall season because with everything still going on it’s gonna be hard to make this season like the last one. I also hope fall is the only season to be cancelled because I wouldn’t know what to do without sports.”

All of the players said they would be willing to return to play sports this year – though some with concerns. No matter the times, athletes have a need to be compete.

“If we get back to competing and training I would love to come back with whatever restrictions or rules we have to have because I think most of us now just want to get everything back to normal,” Redd said.

“I don’t have any concerns about playing any sports my only concern is not being able to play, so if the opportunity to play arises I will for sure take it,” Salley said.

“If we are allowed to play, then I fully intend to compete with no concerns,” Francis stated.

Driggs echoed those thoughts saying, “I’m not concerned about the virus at all to be honest. If they let me wrestle this year then cool but if not, then oh well, the grind won’t stop.

Riddle said his only concern was somebody possibly could attend a game with the virus and thus increase the chance of infecting someone else.

“The only concern I would have is if someone with the virus attended an event and nobody was informed about it,” Riddle elaborated. “I feel like if temperature and wellness checks were performed before every event then that would be a good precaution. If that was done, I would definitely feel like it’s safe to play.”

Since school has been closed, HCHS students have been taking classes online. All of the guys say they look forward to school reopening.

And where they can do classes online a return to the school building is what they really want. The student-athletes facing struggles sometimes to even get the online class completed.

“I haven’t liked the online school because where I live I don’t get great service so it was a bit of a struggle this past semester so I hope when we come back there won’t be as much of it but I think there will have to be some of it,” Redd said.

“I think returning to school this year will be partially online and partially not but I wish for it be not online as I dislike doing classes online greatly,” Salley added.

“I believe online learning will make things more difficult for me but it’s fine either way with me,” Driggs said.

Francis said, “Online school was a negative experience and I hope we aren’t required to repeat it. It made difficult classes even harder, and without the help of teachers reaching out, I doubt it would have succeeded in teaching in a reasonable amount of time.

“As for returning to school, I hope they don’t change anything and keep it as it has been in past years. I have all college classes. My main concern is I will have to learn from a screen instead of a classroom.”

Riddle saying he feels like the online approach may be best for now. “I feel like the online approach is definitely the safest option to academics this year. If things slow down or a vaccine is released, then I could see a return to the building this year.”

Most of the guys said that not having sports wouldn’t affect whether they can move on to compete in college, though Salley said not having his senior season of cross country could affect his being recruited.

“I was hoping to move forward to a collegiate level with cross country but without my senior season I will not have the opportunity to run and show people my talent,” Salley said.

Driggs on the other hand said not having a senior season of wresting would actually help him as he prepares to go to a college in Virginia or North Carolina and wrestle.

“I’m wrestling in college and that’s really the only competition that I’m concerned about,” Driggs said. “Not having a high school wrestling season will actually benefit my college performance because I can train with tougher training partners and wrestle tougher competition in non-school related tourneys.”

Whatever happens with school and sports this year all of the guys said this year at HCHS will be one for the books – or at least local folklore. They note there are still so many unknowns as the virus continues to play a leading role in how people live out their lives now.

All just want to have something that resembles what a students’ senior year looked like just a mere year ago.

“I don’t know what we have as seniors this year, I feel that the many special events will be either canceled or held different due to the precautions that will be taken due to covid,” said Salley.

“I hope our senior year isn’t affected too much but I think all of us just want everything back to normal so we can have a great year so we can have some of the same memories as the classes before us,” Redd added.

“I’m a little nervous that the things I’ve looked forward to all through high school will not happen because of this,” Riddle shared.

Francis said all the events surrounding seniors, prom, etc., are important but he just wants to make sure he gets properly educated and graduates.

“Prom and other activities are also important, but they aren’t going to affect my future career and college,” Francis stated. “I need to do well in my classes, and I hope schools can open back up so that I can accomplish that.”

Driggs expressed he doesn’t know how his senior year will go, so he just plans to roll with what’s happening and adjust as necessary.

“I’m just going with the flow,” Driggs said. “If it doesn’t go my way then I’ll adapt.”

Driggs is the son of Brandy Hensley and he lives in Virgilina with his mom. Riddle is the son of Mitzi McCormick and David Riddle and he lives in South Boston. Francis is the son of Susan Cash and they reside in Scottsburg.

Salley is the son of Shannon Salley and Charlie Salley of South Boston. Redd is the son of Billy Redd and Andrea Redd of Virgilina.

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