The Arizona Interscholastic Association recently ruled that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, no competition will be played until further notice. Seasons were halted with little notice.
Several seniors who were gearing up for their final go-around of high school sports are coping with the harsh reality that their careers could be cut short.
“You don’t expect something like this to happen,” said Seth Sweet-Chick, a senior baseball player at Estrella Foothills High School. “You think, ‘OK, it’s my senior year. It’s finally here. We’re going to finish this, go to playoffs.’ But then something like this happens and you’re like, ‘Could my senior year be over? Did I play my last game?’”
Gov. Doug Ducey, who first closed schools through March 27, announced March 30 an extension of closures through the school year. The AIA did not have an update at press time.
As schools are shut down, athletes are still working to stay in game-shape.
“I run my neighborhood,” said Riley Roberts, a senior track runner at Agua Fria High School. “I have weights and stuff in my garage, so, I’d do push ups, situps, planks, stuff with weights. I tried to do stuff that will keep me conditioned.”
Sweet-Chick said he works out at the Milwaukee Brewers Spring Training complex in Phoenix, where his father, Rick Sweet, manages the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate. Adhering to safety precautions, they only get their work in at the complex when no one else is around.
“I’ve been going to the ballpark to hit and take ground balls, throw bullpens, all that,” Sweet-Chick said. “We’ve been able to use the gym and stuff there. That’s been huge. Otherwise, there’s not really anywhere else you can go.”
Roberts said she began to put two and two together, foreshadowing a possible suspension to her track season, when one of the biggest meets of the season was canceled weeks ago.
“I was just kind of confused,” she said. “I was disappointed because most of us track athletes have been training since last August when school started. For track season to kind of, not get cancelled, but for the meets to get pushed back, is just disappointing for all of us. We’ve been training for so long.”
Sweet-Chick, however, saw no warning signs. The day before the suspension, his Estrella Foothills team traveled north to play a game at Mingus High School. Sweet-Chick went 2-for-3 at the plate and drove in a pair of runs, helping his team to a win.
“We went from the day before we’re playing in a game. We come back, not thinking anything about it,” he said. “For the next day, for all that to come out, it was just [realizing] that I could’ve just played my last game.”
The suspension of sports is impacting more than just spring athletics. Logan Gingg, a junior football player at Verrado High School, said his team has been forced to pause its off-season workouts.
“The off-season workouts and all the work we put in really is the most important work,” he said. “It will for sure affect us in our preparation for what’s going to happen in the future.”
Like spring athletes, Gingg is now juggling how to stay in shape.
“My dad has workout equipment at [his] dairy farm. That’s what I’ve been using. I drive down there and use the machines he has to make sure I’m still putting in work.”
Despite it being a tough decision to make, one that could cost athletes their senior seasons, they understand the AIA’s ruling.
“I definitely feel like they’re doing the right thing,” Sweet-Chick said. “They’re doing the right thing for the safety of all of us and making sure we can get this stopped so, possibly, we can continue our season and finish it.”
But uncertainty haunts many.
“I think there’s a high possibility that I did [play in my last high school game], and at the time, I didn’t know,” Sweet-Chick said.
“It’s tough to think about.”