Honestly, I felt like the proverbial ‘kid in a candy store’ – or the first one to rush down the stairs on Christmas morning to see brightly wrapped packages under the tree.
In reality, I was pulling into the parking lot at Escalon High School to cover Oakdale vs. Escalon tennis.
Friday afternoon, March 12, it was a match between the Mustangs and the Cougars, playing boys tennis in a realigned Valley Oak League that has Escalon battling many of the VOL teams in what has been termed Season 1 for sports. Girls golf, cross country, boys tennis; those are the three sports Escalon started with and my schedule finally allowed me to get out to cover tennis this past Friday.
Excited? You bet. Why? Because I realized as I arrived at the school that it had been a full calendar year since I had covered any high school sports. I’ve had a few stories so far on the Season 1 teams but this was the first time that I packed up my camera, notebook and headed out to capture the action.
That got me thinking; it was last March 12 and 13 that Escalon and Vista high schools staged the realistic ‘Every 15 Minutes’ program to help deter teen drinking and driving – little did we know when we got word on that Friday, March 13 that schools throughout the region were closing “for a few weeks” that some still would not be open for in-person classes a year later.
Escalon High School students have returned to campus, though with a hybrid schedule; Oakdale and Riverbank high schools remain on distance learning but have plans in place, ready to return to classrooms when tier levels permit.
Back to tennis; there were a few spectators scattered about to watch their students compete and I was happy to greet some of the Escalon kids by name. One match also featured an Oakdale player that I have known since he was 4 or 5 years old, the younger brother of a travel soccer teammate of my daughter’s many moons ago. To see him now, playing high school tennis and making college plans, makes me realize how fast the time goes.
The one-year anniversary of the COVID shutdown also prompted me to grab the issue of the paper we published when it happened. Escalon had its Every 15 Minutes coverage, a story on the city’s Public Works crews doing extra sanitizing measures in city parks, the school announcement about a three-week shutdown due to coronavirus and fundraising plans for a mid-May event (which didn’t actually happen) for the Escalon Historical Society. I also had an ‘Editor’s Notebook’ offering about the pandemic and how we were all trying to learn to navigate it in the early going, a pandemic we all thought would be well in the rearview mirror by now. Oakdale had a school closure story – originally anticipated for 30 days – a photo at the local Cost Less market having mostly empty shelves as people started hoarding everything from toilet paper to loaves of bread. Rodeo officials were featured in a story indicating they were going to ‘wait and see’ about putting on the event in April – it never happened during 2020 but they hope to put it on during the summer of 2021.
Riverbank was just welcoming a new Assistant Superintendent to the district, city officials issued a proclamation declaring a ‘local emergency’ as a result of the pandemic and an overall update of COVID-19 cases in Stanislaus County and across the country was provided. At that time, New York and Washington State had the most reported cases; California was second.
So as I excitedly took photos of high school kids playing tennis, I felt there was a little bit of normalcy creeping back in. With vaccinations here, hopefully that will add to the recovery and get us back to a place where we can soon greet friends and neighbors without six feet in between us.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.