Athletes adapt to stay-at-home orders, SPC cancels spring season


Cooper Hay

Hay throws a pitch in his backyard while in quarantine.

Minutes after the girls’ and boys’ tennis teams captured 4-1 victories against Awty in their first SPC counter matches of the season, coaches relayed disappointing news to the celebrating athletes: each team’s new 1-0 record would remain that way for a while.

On March 12, the Southwest Preparatory Conference informed member schools that all SPC athletic competitions between March 25 and April 12 were cancelled due to COVID-19. At the time, SPC counter matches and qualifying meets had just begun, but the few results available were promising for the Mavericks.

Girls’ golf, which has won SPC for the past three years, competed in four tournaments this spring. The team championed two SPC-sanctioned tournaments and placed second and third at two 6A division public school tournaments, which, according to captain Christine Wang, boast significantly stiffer competition than SPC.

“We were doing really well,” Wang said. “We knew that if we could have played at SPC, we would have had a great shot at winning the title.”

Thomas Chang
Thomas Chang lifts weights in his backyard to stay in shape.

Baseball, which placed third at SPC last season, defeated Houston Christian 7-4 in their first SPC counter match and was scheduled to play Kinkaid the next day. Captain Cooper Hay feels that this year’s team had the highest chance of claiming the SPC crown out of all the SJS baseball teams in his high school career.

“We had a great start to the season and were on an upward trend,” Hay said. “We’ve defeated some tough 6A competition, and we’ve proved that we belong near the top of SPC.”

Hoping and anticipating that SPC play would resume on April 13, athletes found ways to train while abiding by social distancing guidelines. Baseball players, including Hay, have thrown into nets and completed workouts at home.

The golf teams do not have the same ability to practice from home. Most Houston golf courses have shut down, so the teams cannot play full practice rounds, which are a necessary component of tournament preparation. According to boys’ captain Adam Nelson, when golfers are not playing at the few open courses, they focus on preserving their physical conditioning and taking practice swings.

“Getting a few practice swings in and hitting a few chips as often as I can to keep my rhythm and prevent the rust from accumulating has also been really important,” Nelson said.

Tennis players have also been unable to practice normally since many courts in both local parks and country clubs have closed. Since tennis requires at least two people to play, players have taken to running and biking to improve their fitness.

“It’s turned into a question of how much fitness you’re willing to do,” boys’ captain Andrew Sall said. “Running, biking and doing exercises like pushups at home are really the only options for tennis players right now.”

Practice cancellation affected the track teams less than others. Many long-distance runners, including senior Kyle Puckett, already ran independent workouts on weekends during the season. They have started to do so during weekdays as well.

Kyle Puckett
Although SPC was cancelled, Puckett continues to run in his neighborhood.

Although runners are able to complete their training regimens with scant difficulty, they were still affected by the SPC conference shutdown. The initial shutdown, scheduled to last through April 12, meant that athletes would compete at only one more meet before SPC — the Nick Finnegan Spring Invitational. Five other meets that they planned to attend were cancelled. At Finnegan, Puckett hoped to qualify for the SPC championship meet in the 3200 meters and break the school record for the event.

“Some of us got SPC qualifying times in early, and then there are guys like me, who have not competed yet in some events,” said Puckett, who had already qualified in the 1600 meters and the 4×800 meter relay. “If Finnegan is still happening, that’s the only chance left, so I have to run a great race in the 3200 that day to qualify.”

Athletes such as Puckett have no more chances to collect SPC qualifications. On March 31, the SPC conference announced that the entire 2020 spring sports season, including the SPC championships and any competitions between SPC member schools, has been cancelled.

Adam Nelson
Nelson works on his short game in his backyard under quarantine.

Athletes of all ages and all teams were disappointed, but seniors were especially crushed by the sudden end to their Maverick careers. Wang saw this year as a chance to finish her high school career on a high note.

“The news didn’t really hit me until a couple days after we learned about the season being cancelled,” she said. “Our whole team, especially the seniors, are so disappointed at not being able to four-peat at SPC, but there’s really nothing we can do to change that.”

Although Nelson met both of his season goals, he wishes that COVID-19 had not forced the SPC cancellations so that his team could have taken down Kinkaid at SPC and captured the title.

“I was pretty angry at first because our chance to prove how much we’ve grown as a team is now gone,” he said. “In a way, though, I accomplished what I went into the season wanting to do, so it was satisfying in those respects.”

In response to season cancellations, teams are trying to coordinate possible mini competitions with other SPC schools that will take place when the pandemic has died down.

“We’ve been in touch with the Kinkaid players, and they might try to host a mini tournament with us in June if the situation improves,” Sall said.

Despite the frustration regarding season cancellations, athletes agree that the cancellations are justified.

“We’re going to look back and ask what could have happened if we’d had the chance to finish the season, but we’re staying at home for a greater cause than ourselves,” Hay said. “We’re helping protect people who are more vulnerable to the virus, which is the right thing to do.”

As a senior who is dealing with the abrupt conclusion of his Maverick career, Puckett advises younger athletes to make the most of their time spent competing in red and black.

“Cherish every moment out there and don’t even take a second for granted, because someday you’re going to put on your uniform for one last time, and that’s going to be it,” Puckett said. “The best athletes are the ones who are in love with their sport and who are grateful every day that they are given the opportunity to train and compete.”