The lost season
Editor’s Note: Over the course of the next couple weeks, the Daily Sentinel is paying tribute to the Class of 2020 spring athletes across Plymouth County who didn’t get a farewell spring sports season due to the coronavirus pandemic. In our second article of the series, we highlight the senior boys in track and tennis at Le Mars Community High School.
LE MARS — The spring sports seasons were cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving athletes and coaches disappointed for what could have been. For seniors though, it was even worse as it was their last chance to compete in those sports at the high school level, and maybe, for the rest of their lives.
The Le Mars Community boys track and field team had several seniors preparing to compete this season. Head Coach Al Engebretson said he was able to work with the athletes, a mix of veteran returners and newcomers, for a few weeks before the closure of school came.
“Obviously it was disappointing to lose the track season, but we know that people all around the world are going through things that they would choose not to go through,” Engebretson said.
The Bulldogs had lost several members from last year’s team which took 12 events to state, but also had some who were hoping to make return trips to Des Moines. One of those returners was sprinter Anthony Lamoreux. He had qualified for state in the 100 and 200 meter dashes in 2019 along with the 4x100 and 4x200 teams.
“I was looking forward to my senior season due to the young talent we had,” Lamoreux said. “I love seeing the younger guys work hard in order to beat out each other for that last 4x100 or 4x200 spot. What I am going to miss the most is the fun and memories that could have happened. I remember my last two years of state track vividly because I had a blast with my teammates. I wanted to replicate that memory this year and for the last time.”
The 4x200 team was set to return two other runners, Dylan Rasmussen and Eric Spieler, all seniors, with Lamoreux and Rasmussen back for the 4x100. Spieler was one of three members returning for the shuttle hurdle relay which advanced to the finals. Now, none of those athletes will get a chance to compete again at Drake Stadium.
“As painful as it is for these guys to not be able to compete their senior year, we know that they will bounce back and excel at the opportunities they will have in the years to come,” Engebretson said.
The boys tennis team had similar lofty hopes of a good season after making the state tournament and finishing fourth. Head Tennis Coach Bill Dalton described the whole situation as being bizarre.
“We were all set to go and it just got pulled away from us,” Dalton said. “I think the kids were really disappointed and the coaches were, too. I feel bad for the seniors. That was their one shot.”
Le Mars has been building up a solid tradition in boys tennis with four appearances in the final four in the last five seasons. Josh Pratt helped the team to a strong finish last year and the team was looking to get more production in the lineup from fellow seniors Noah Wiltgen and Trevor Szczech to supplement some other underclass contributors.
“Noah Wiltgen, he came quite a ways last year and was really contributing at the varsity level. He was one of the reasons we got to state,” Dalton said. “Trevor Szczech, he’s a senior, too. It would have been his opportunity. He was always on JV and we graduated some last year and he would have had an opportunity to be right up there on varsity and see what he could do. I feel bad for him because he never did get to varsity. He had a shot this year, but that kind of went away.”
Because of such a sudden and unexpected end to their season, Dalton said the team never really got a chance for closure. He said at some point he’d like to have his team get together one last time.
“When they take this ban off, I’d like to have our kids just hit one night together just to kind of have some closure, just for fun,” Dalton said.
While it may take some time and reflection, Engebretson hopes his athletes and others in the same situation can find a lesson come out of the cancellation of the season.
“Hopefully this situation will help them realize that the things they have always taken for granted, like being able to compete, are not always a given and, when given the chance, to seize the moment with their best effort,” Engebretson said.
While a difficult situation to grapple with, Lamoreux said he isn’t second-guessing the tough decisions that had to be made.
“I would not have guessed the track season would end this way but I am glad our safety is more important. As for athletes that are continuing their passion for track, I know the season being cancelled is a huge disadvantage for them,” Lamoreux said. “Overall, I hope the pandemic strengthens Le Mars after it is over. True athletes will prevail and get better everyday. In the end, I hope to see those athletes under the lights, on the court, at the Blue Oval, and on the field representing the Bulldogs of Le Mars.”
The word or phrase is how their coach described them:
Scott Ferguson- Competitive
Kyle Herbst- Loyal
Lucas Hauser- Reliable
Tucker Heeren- Determined
Kameron Hinkel- Potential
Dylan Rasmussen- Consistent
Caleb Slattery- Hardworking
Aisea Toki- Athletic
Eric Spieler- Versatile
Kevin Van Otterloo- Team player
Anthony Lamoreux- Fast
Braden Jensen- Coachable
Tate Hogrefe- Faithful
Noah Wiltgen- Warrior-3
Trevor Szczech- Opportunity
Josh Pratt- Gamer