Owen Hudgins ’21 was enjoying dinner with his family when he felt his phone vibrate. As he checked what could have been a normal message from a friend, his heart sank when he saw the sender, Head of Athletics Terry Barnum, and the subject line, “Spring Athletics Update.” When Hudgins read the full message, which detailed the official cancelation of all spring sports, his fears were confirmed.
“Honestly, I had been expecting it,” Hudgins, an attacker on the lacrosse team, said. “I was still devastated. We faced so much adversity this season and we wanted a chance to be able to fight for our spot in the league, so that was pretty tough. It’s really rough knowing that the reason your season ended was because of something entirely out of your control.”
This experience was not unique to Hudgins, nor even to students at Harvard-Westlake. As the coronavirus pandemic swept across the globe, everyday life began to change. The school community felt the impact March 11, when President Rick Commons announced that both campuses, and all spring sports, would be shut down until March 27 at the earliest.
“I first heard that the season may get canceled a few hours before our last game,” lacrosse long-stick midfielder and defender Nik Grube ’21 said. “One of my teammates mentioned it as we were walking to the locker room. I don’t think any of us really believed it would happen, and we more or less ignored the fact that that could be our last game.”
Distance runner India Spencer ’21 said she attempted to stay positive in the face of what she saw as inevitable.
“I was keeping hope for a long time,” Spencer said. “I knew that ultimately [our season] was going to be canceled. It was definitely expected, but it didn’t feel real until it was official.”
When Barnum eventually confirmed that the season was off, Spencer said she was overcome with emotion.
“I started crying,” Spencer said. “We all had been working really hard towards our season, but the main reason I was upset was just that I wasn’t going to have a season with some of my best friends.”
Though unhappy with the season’s abrupt end, pitcher Tyler Ganus ’20 said he tried to move past the loss and continue working.
“I was definitely pretty sad and upset, but I knew that I couldn’t stay in that state for a long period of time,” Ganus said. “As a program, we are strong. We all continued to grind on our own.”
Many of the spring season teams have attempted to fill the void of the lost season. Track coaches have posted daily workouts on the team’s Facebook group, and members of the lacrosse team have participated in Zoom calls to plan their goals for next year. Ganus also discussed his own personal regiment, which includes film study and other exercises.
“Some examples [of my work] are taking swings at home, studying MLB games, waking up to motivational videos and going hard on [my] daily workout,” Ganus said.
For juniors, the cancelation of the season may impact their chances of recruitment. The loss of tape from this year, as well as the lack of an offseason, could be incredibly detrimental, Grube said.
“To put it bluntly, there’s a good chance [we are] out of luck,” Grube said. “No film, plus potentially no summer, equals eight years of possibly wasted work.”
Despite these circumstances, coaches are prepared to help their athletes in the upcoming recruiting cycle, Barnum said.
“Most of our coaches provide video footage to colleges as well as make phone calls and write letters in support of our athletes,” Barnum said. “This has always been our practice and these efforts are even more critical during this time. By all accounts, our athletes are continuing to be recruited by colleges and our coaches are playing an important role in that process. The good news is that athletes across the country are in the same situation, so our athletes are not at a disadvantage compared to their peers.”
Coaches have also found different ways the honor their seniors, Barnum said.
“Some programs have held Zoom meetings that serve as ‘senior day’ for graduating athletes,” Barnum said. “Others have made special posts on Twitter and Instagram. Still others have driven to athletes’ homes and delivered their end of the year awards, similar to what was done for all seniors with the faculty delivery of the Class of 2020 graduation yard signs. There’s nothing that can equal honoring our seniors before their last home game, but our coaches have done a good job of recognizing the contributions our seniors have made to the program.”
As a senior himself, Ganus lost what would have been his final season with the baseball team. He said the amount of time he has spent with his teammates through the years made the whole situation hurt even more.
“It’s brutal,” Ganus said. “I’ve been playing with some of the guys my whole life. I’ve played with most of the guys since I was 12 or 13. The camaraderie among us is super special. We grew so much as a team this year. I’m going to miss them all like crazy.”
As the focus shifts to the fall, Barnum said he is prepared to defer to higher authorities when it comes to opening the season.
“While it is our hope that we will be able to resume sports, completely or partially, in the fall, we do not know for sure if that will be possible,” Barnum said. “Once we are given permission by local authorities and school administration, we look forward to resuming our athletic activities.”