This was supposed to be the last hurrah in high school sports for this year’s seniors. This was their last opportunity to enjoy playing with their teammates and the camaraderie that only athletic teams can provide. Instead, they find themselves at home as the coronavirus pandemic has closed the schools and cancelled all athletic events for the rest of the school year.
On March 16, Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman ordered the schools closed until March 30. The Arizona Interscholastic Association, the governing body of school athletics in the state, ordered all athletic events cancelled until March 30. When the school closure was extended to April 13, the AIA followed suit in cancelling sports events until further notice.
On March 30, Ducey and Hoffman ordered the schools closed for the remainder of the school year. The AIA then cancelled all athletic events, including the spring tournaments, for the rest of the school year.
“This is an unfortunate circumstance for all of our member schools, students and coaches,” said AIA Executive Director David Hines. “We know this decision was a hard one, but one that was necessary to assist in the well-being of everyone across Arizona. We hope everyone stays healthy and focused on what the next chapter will bring.”
“We really feel for everyone involved with our schools,” AIA Executive Board President Jeannine Brandel added. “So many have worked very hard for their chance to win a state championship, especially this year’s seniors. But we encourage you to still be students and to still be athletes. Strive to better yourselves during this time.”
These comments are small consolation to high school senior athletes. Two senior athletes at Parker High are softball player Hannah Honomichl and football and baseball player Jake Hill. While they acknowledge the reason for sporting events being cancelled, they are both disappointed about it.
“It sucks,” Honomichl said. “It’s not fun.”
“It really sucks,” Hill said. “It’s bad it had to end this way.”
Honomichl had played softball in all four of her years at Parker High School. She quickly emerged as the ace of the pitching staff. After several years of mediocrity, the team played well last year and qualified for a state tournament play-in game. They were off to a hot start in 2020, and there were hopes this would be a good year for them.
“We were hoping to have the season go far,” she said. “Everything was going so well.”
Honomichl said she missed playing with her teammates.
“I do,” she said. “I miss it a lot. We won’t have Senior Night or the field trip, and we might not have graduation. It’s heartbreaking.”
Hill played football and baseball at Parker High. He said he enjoyed sports, and he missed being able to play.
“I really love the sport,” he said of the cancelled baseball season. “I miss playing with the coaches and the other players. I miss the games and the competition.”
Hill said he doesn’t like staying at home.
“I’d rather be in school talking to teachers and students,” he said.
As for their plans for the fall, Honomichl said she plans to attend Arizona Western College to study to become a physical therapy assistant. Hill said he planned to go to trade school to become a welder.
The school shutdown has been hard on other high school athletes as well. Emanuel Alaniz, a junior, has emerged as one of the top baseball players for the Broncs and in the 2A West region. An outstanding athlete, he is also a top football player.
“I’m disappointed,” he said of the cancellations. “I feel we lost opportunities and learning experiences.”
Alaniz said he saw this as a test for athletes.
“We need to stay focused,” he said. “It’s up to each of us to bounce back.”
It helps to put things in perspective, Alaniz said.
“This is more than a shutdown of sports,” he said. “This is a world-wide crisis.”
With the schools being closed and all activities cancelled, the Parker School Board and the administration of the Parker Unified School District have been discussing what to do in regards to high school graduation, which was set for May 21. Board members have stated they want to have some sort of graduation event, as this is something the students have worked towards for 12 years.