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 sixth article in the series, we highlight the senior athletes in track and golf at Kingsley-Pierson.
KINGSLEY — 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 Kingsley-Pierson golf teams were looking forward to putting together seasons this spring. The boys team won the sectional meet at their home course last season and finished fourth at districts. The team had two seniors on the roster with Matthew Riordan and Damon Bowman hoping to close out their careers by competing at a high level.
The Lady Panthers also had two seniors looking to hit the links this spring with Alex Thompson and Ali Orzechowski. Girls Golf Head Coach Valerie Sitzmann said the decision to cancel the season wasn’t surprising, but it still was a shock when it became official.
“I knew that we would most likely not have a golf season, but when Governor Reynolds announced that schools would be closed and the spring sports season would be cancelled, it became real to me,” Sitzmann said. “Hearing the news was so much more difficult than I had imagined it would be. Hearing is so much different than knowing.”
As a member of the IGHSAU Golf Advisory Board, Sitzmann spoke with coaches around the area prior to the cancellation to see what their thoughts were about potentially salvaging part of a season.
“Everyone that responded had thoughts, but first and foremost was the safety of the athletes and those they come in contact with,” Sitzmann said. “Not having a season is difficult for the athletes and the coaches, but safety is more important. I saw a Tweet that said, ‘We will never know if we overreacted to this situation, but it will be obvious to know if we underreacted.’”
For more than a decade now, the Kingsley-Pierson track and field teams have been combined with Woodbury Central, a pairing which has seen plenty of success over the years. Unfortunately, the boys and girls teams weren’t able to add to their trophy cases this year. The girls team won all of their meets last season and Head Coach Randy Wiese had out one of his largest teams ever before the season was cancelled with 52 girls planning to compete this spring.
“The girls have won every meet they’ve gone to the last two years, except the state meet,” Wiese said. “They’ve won every invitational, every state qualifying meet, they’ve won the conference. This probably would have been their best year ever. It’s a sad deal that they never got a chance to run it out. The seniors could have been conference champions all four years, but they didn’t get the chance.”
Last year, the KP-WC girls qualified 10 events for state and many of the athletes were back. Jayde Barto was a member of the defending state champion sprint medley team ready to return for one last trip on the Blue Oval.
“It is sad that KP-WC didn’t get a season this year,” Barto said. “Our team had so much potential whether it be field or running events. Personally, the goal was to be back to back state champions in the sprint medley relay and to hopefully grab an overall state title. The fact that we didn’t get a chance is what makes this devastating.”
Other senior members of the girls team included Emily Kraft, Shelby Schweitzberger, Sadie Robbins, McKenzie Benson, Brooke Harvey, Sarah Nelson, Skylar Hannah and Gracia Widman.
The boys team was coming off a slump of a season last year with no events qualifying for state, but the team had several seniors hoping to punch tickets to Drake Stadium this year. The boys team had nine seniors who were going out. Those included Jonah Walden, Joshua Korynta, Preston Pfaffle, Shawn Archer, Mitchell Countryman, Karsen Gray, Javon Weiland, Jaden Hamman and Ethan Copeland.
“We were greatly looking forward to what the 2020 track season was going to bring for this team, but are very thankful for the contributions and memories that the seniors have brought to the team over the past four seasons,” KP-WC Boys Track and Field Coach Geoff Olson said. “While the juniors, sophomores and freshmen will return next year, it is disappointing that they were not able to compete with their senior teammates this season.”
Barto said she will miss competing with her track family one more time, but understands that keeping people healthy and safe was more important than running once more.
“The bonds on the team cannot be matched, KP-WC will always be a family,” Barto said. “This team will have the same amount of potential next year as we did this year. I look forward to watching them succeed in the long run. Right now, I am just thankful that everyone is safe and healthy.”
The word or phrase is how their coach described them:
Matthew Riordan- Talented
Damon Bowman- Ambitious
Alex Thompson- Persistent
Ali Orzechowski- Positive
Preston Pfaffle- Speed
Jonah Walden- Dependable
Joshua Korynta- Courage
Jayde Barto- Fast
Brooke Harvey- Hurdler
Emily Kraft- Reliable
Shelby Schweitzberger- Teammate
Mackenzie Benson- Strong
Sadie Robbins- Smart
Ethan Copeland- Driven
Jaden Hamman- Humor
Javon Weiland- Dedicated
Karsen Gray- Focused
Mitchell Countryman- Leader
Shawn Archer- Versatile
Sarah Nelson- Great
Skylar Hannah- Versatile
Gracia Widman- Intelligent