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Local Student-Athletes See End To Spring Season
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Escalon varsity baseball head coach Greg Largent, left, convenes a meeting on the mound with his players during preseason action on the EHS field. All spring sports have had their seasons canceled, as schools in San Joaquin County will close out the year via distance learning. Marg Jackson/The Times

Word came down Friday, April 3 that the rest of the spring sports season has been cancelled for local high school athletes.

“Based on the recent statements issued by Governor (Gavin) Newsom and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, regarding schools turning to distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) does not see an avenue for the spring sports season to continue,” CIF Executive Commission Ron Nocetti said in a prepared news release.

Nocetti added that, in consultation with the 10 Section Commissioners, the decision was made to cancel not only the regular season but also all spring Section, Regional, and State Championship events.

“We understand this is disappointing for everyone involved in education-based athletics and empathize with our student-athletes and all who are impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak,” Nocetti said. “As always, our top priority is everyone’s ongoing health and safety during this challenging time, and we all look forward to the day when education-based athletics resumes.”

At Escalon High School, longtime varsity baseball coach Greg Largent said while it was an anticipated outcome, that still doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

“I keep thinking it’s a dream and I am going to wake up,” Largent said.

His team was looking forward to the 100th anniversary season, as Escalon High School marked its centennial this year, complete with ‘throwback’ uniforms for the varsity baseball squad.

“My heart goes out to the boys, everybody involved, all the athletes,” Largent added. “This is really the best time of the year as a teacher and coach, everything going a hundred miles an hour … now we are at zero.”

Typically, teams are in the thick of their Trans-Valley League spring season now, along with scholastically preparing for SATs, thinking about college visits, getting ready for graduation.

All that isn’t happening for the Class of 2020, a class that has “been cheated” out of enjoying their final few months of high school and all the experiences that come with it, said Largent.

“I’m staying in touch with the boys, we text back and forth,” the coach said. “We’re just trying to abide by the rules and it’s a lot more serious than anyone thought at first. Trying to stay positive.”

Personally, Largent said he is getting a lot of projects done around the house and has been struck by the number of families he sees outside together.

“I am seeing people walking, families on bicycles, people exercising,” he said. “It’s like we had to have some kind of catastrophe to bring us back to our grassroots.”

So while the students move to a distance learning model and officials try to determine how to successfully navigate through the end of the school year remotely, Largent said he still hopes there can be “some closure” for his team.

“I see summer ball not happening but I would like to possibly do some kind of alumni game, offer some closure for the seniors, maybe get together with some other schools in July or August and do a tournament.”

He also feels that students, regardless of the situation, will be up to the challenge of distance learning.

“These kids are so much more tech savvy,” he said of dealing with the online educational process. “At least they have that.”

Track and field head coach Carrie Nash said the loss of the season was hard hitting for her as well, and was the final straw after the closure of school and then getting a memo about not being able to practice or use the school facilities.

“After the first week off it was getting pretty clear that our track and field season was most likely not going to happen. I’m not going to lie, I held on for a while hoping that we would get notification that our season along with classes would resume. Obviously we got the opposite news. I have just recently come to terms with the fact that the season is over,” Nash explained. “It’s a whole bag of emotions for me. This is my favorite time of year. My favorite sport! The coaches and I are passionate about our sport and athletes. I personally feel robbed. I am mostly sad and disappointed over it.”

Nash said the distance learning will help students continue to get their schoolwork in, but the sports are an entirely different matter, and also hold significance for those athletes.

“As a coach I am devastated that my seniors don’t get to have their season, for a handful of them, it would have been their fourth year and that accomplishment was taken from them. All athletes were robbed of a season of experience, training and competing, it’s a real bummer,” she said. “As a mom, this is the only year that my boys would have been able to compete on the same team, Garrett is a senior and Owen a freshman. It was going to be a special season in that way for me; I have great memories of when (daughter) Nora was a senior and Garrett was a freshman competing on the same team and clearly that makes me sad too.”

The distance learning program for Escalon Unified School District will be utilized to finish out the 2019-20 school year and Nash, a fourth grade teacher at Dent Elementary, said she is excited to be back in touch with her students, albeit remotely.

“I’ve already been texting, emailing and talking with students on the phone this morning. I feel like I’m in touch with them again, which is wonderful,” Nash said on Monday morning. “I’m optimistic that things will iron out as time goes on but we are off to a great start. I’m thankful that my grade level at Dent has worked so well together to get lessons out to students. I miss my students, classroom and coworkers! This is new for us but, we are going forward with the student’s best interest in mind ... always.”

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Shown in this file photo, Escalon High School track and field head coach Carrie Nash goes over the event schedule with some of her athletes at a practice meet at Oakdale High School. Marg Jackson/The Times