Marble Falls High School senior runner Bryer Atkinson's high school athletic career come to an end after the University Interscholastic League announced April 17 it was canceling the remainder of the 2019-20 competitions. Photo by Briezie Luedecke/Luedecke Photography
When Governor Greg Abbott announced at noon April 17 that Texas schools would not reopen for the 2019-20 academic year, it was a only matter of time before the University Interscholastic League and the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools canceled spring sports seasons.
The UIL, the governing body of public school extracurricular activities, and TAPPS, which oversees private school extracurriculars, made it official a few hours later.
“There is so much heartbreak, it’s overwhelming,” said Marble Falls Independent School District Athletic Director Rick Hoover. “There are life lessons you learn by being an athlete. It stays with you forever.”
His counterpart at Burnet Consolidated Independent School District agreed.
“No doubt,” Kurt Jones said. “Everyone misses the normal spring. There would be all kinds of events and competitions happening.”
Each pointed out the reasons why “disappointing” doesn’t begin to describe the situation.
In Marble Falls, junior runner Bailey Goggans was poised to go for her third consecutive state gold medal in the 800 meters and third state medal in the 400 meters, while junior high jumper Kason O’Riley, who has Texas’ third best clearance in the event at 6 feet 11 inches, was set to return to the state meet.
At Burnet, the boys soccer team qualified for the playoffs for the first time in the program’s four-year history, and the Lady Dawgs relay teams were positioning themselves to make strong runs to the Class 4A Region IV meet.
And at Faith Academy of Marble Falls, the girls’ tennis team was preparing to compete for its third straight state title, while the boys’ track-and-field team believed it could win the state title this year after finishing second in 2019.
“That’s probably the most crushing,” Faith Academy Athletic Director Steve McCannon said of girls’ tennis.
He added that the boys’ track team has two seniors.
“It’s crushing when you have seniors who are in contention, when you put in the work and you have a shot at cashing it in,” he said.
But those are the high-profile athletes and teams, the athletic directors pointed out. And some, such as Goggans and O’Riley, will return for one more year.
The Marble Falls softball team, which was 2-1 in district before play was suspended, was pushing for a playoff spot. Many of the team’s members are seniors.
“They were positioned to have a great year,” Hoover said. “I was expecting great things. Baseball has a new coach, and golf and tennis, they just got their hearts broken.”
Jones was equally optimistic about Burnet’s baseball and softball teams.
“We especially feel bad for those seniors,” Jones said. “They’re not going to have that closure, that finality. You feel bad for them.”
McCannon emphasizes to his athletes to appreciate every practice and every contest.
“You can’t let it take any of your dreams or memories you did have,” he said. “It’s tough to swallow, but you have to.”
While some seniors might go on to compete at the collegiate level, for many, this was their last year to play.
“You hope they have great relationships with their teammates and coaches going back to previous years. It’s not going to end the way they visualized it ending,” Jones said. “Even if you win all the championships, it’s not about the trophies and the medals. It’s about those things that stick with you for a lifetime, those things that help make you successful for a lifetime.”