What Losing The TF Season Would Mean To Athletes

* Photo Credit; USA Today Sports

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Ask your parents, or your coaches. Talk to your teachers. There are moments you can't get back. 

You only have them when you do. And years from now, decades even, when you start to examine the role high school sports played in your life -- whether you went on to continue your career in college or not -- chances are those memories will remain vivid in your mind. Your parents, your coaches, your teachers, they all know this. 

So what do we stand to miss if we lose our seasons? 

We lose the moments we weren't fortunate enough to experience. And that will be the real tragedy of what student-athletes are facing today, with a public health crisis continuing across the country. There are currently over 125,000 cases of COVID-19 globally, including 1,629 and 41 deaths in the US, though that number is rising rapidly by the day. 

"I have been working extremely hard for this track season," United Township (IL) junior Trey Heinz wrote on Twitter. "Knowing it could be cancelled hurts because of how much effort I've put into it." 

As we continue to observe the impact of the coronavirus on the sports landscape as a whole, state associations across the country are either considering the postponement of their seasons or even cancelling them all together.

The NCAA made the very difficult decision on Thursday to cancel its entire spring championship season, thereby ending the years of collegiate athletes everywhere -- including fifth-year seniors who stuck that extra year to hopefully go for that title. 

It was a devastating blow. 

There are athletes like Evan Matthews, a freshman at Ohio State University and a graduate of Pickerington Central High School (OH), who epitomize the feeling of what most athletes -- either high school or college-aged -- are going through. 

"So you really mean to tell me I went through fall conditioning, to get my outdoor season stripped from me?" he wrote on Twitter. "I'm about to cry some real tears right now." 

Some are frustrated. Others are angry. Most feel sadness. Outside of the NCAA season, a high school national championship was lost on Thursday, too. A spate of cancellations to upcoming track meets are ongoing.

But I'll be the first one to say that it's necessary.

We should postpone these meets over the next few weeks and we should think about cancelling mass gatherings for the sake of safety. We just don't know enough about what the coronavirus is yet -- and unfortunately, it has the uncomfortable power of being able to touch all of us. 

My perspective now, at the age of 35, is centered around what we could stand to lose. But I get it, and I understand where athletes are coming from. 

While NCAA athletes will get another half-season of eligibility back, high school athletes do not get that same luxury. If you're a sophomore or junior or senior with hopes of running in college, you might lose that critical season. There are no redshirts. Championships are not retroactively granted based on season best times. You can't just tell the college of your dreams to re-add that travel budget of which it eliminated when faced with this pandemic just so it can recruit you. 

Those memories? You weren't even given the chance to have them. 

"I'm very disappointed on what's happened," said Gavin Schurr, a junior at Fairview High School in Colorado. "2020 was set up to be a great season for high school track and field. A lot of athletes are currently pretty upset obviously, but I feel that they shouldn't stop training. Make sure we are all ready for when and if things change. Especially with how short this season will be when we get back."

The biggest loss in this spate of cancellations, postponements and suspensions? It's the community that track and field provides for all of us. 

There are meets across the country every week, but there is an incredible aura in being a part of something truly energizing. Ever had a chance to watch events at The Penn Relays? How about the Texas Relays? How about about the CIF State Track and Field Championships? Your local state championship? 

Heck, what about that local invitational you love? You can't run these championships in empty stadiums. 

If you've ever been in a stadium where an extraordinary race happens, you know the feeling your body goes through. You get goosebumps. And those vibrations just don't go away. 

We stand lose that if we lose these seasons. 

We lose our community. We lose our championships. And we lose our moments. And I truly hope that isn't the case. 

But I will say this, too. 

In moments of adversity, athletes are among the few who understand what it takes to truly embrace challenge. When faced with an obstacle we must tackle, we often look at the possible solutions. 

"just here to say i hope all track athletes recognize the loss of our sport at the moment is a great opportunity to enjoy things outside of running & recognize ourselves as more than just runners :)," Arkansas junior Kristlin Gear wrote

Together, athletes often bridge those difficult and polarizing divides with camaraderie, driving through them with a purpose. 

It's unfortunate we may lose our seasons. 

But I also believe we'll be stronger for it.