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Photo by VYPE Media's Bradley Collier.
It's been eight days since Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, which is also known as Coronavirus. In the days that followed, concerts, sports events and other gatherings were cancelled or postponed and a large population of the world is under a mandatory and self-imposed isolation. That, of course, is affecting Texas high schools and their respective sports seasons. The athletes are out of school for a couple weeks and their games, competitions and practices are on hold until April or May.
Most of the focus is on spring sports because they kicked off their 2020 seasons in the last few weeks. Softball is one of them and its hiatus is starting to haunt seniors. 2020 Texas A&M University-Kingsville commit Kate Casey is one of the athletes that doesn't know if she's suited up for Thorndale for the final time in her high school career. After her mother created a petition on the iPetitions service that asks the UIL to allow spring sports "to complete their season even if [they extend] into summer break", she shared it on her Twitter account on Wednesday with the following message: "Being a senior, I think I speak for all of us when I say it can't end this way."
In the meantime, she and her teammates are training like it's an everyday practice session.
"The Lady Dogs at Thorndale High School have been hosting our own practices at the city field daily, weather permitting," she said. "And on top of that, I run in the mornings, and lift, etcetera in the afternoons. Coming off of an injury means I have to work twice as hard minimum, so physical therapy is also in the mix."
75 miles southwest in San Marcos, junior softballer Kaylee Cavazos has more time to complete for her high school athletic career before she heads to The University of Texas at Arlington for the 2021-2022 school year. As a team captain, she has a plan in place to ease the transition back to full time action. She and her teammates were told by their coach "to work at home and to stay focused", but that won't stop her from pushing her teammates with a daily workout checklist or encouraging them from afar.
"Every day, I am working on something to improve myself," she said. "I can't let this time off be a vacation. I haven't seen my personal trainer since this started, but he has taught me so much and he's only a phone call away. My dad also plays a big role on my daily routine. We've planned this steep hill workout from sprinting to side squats. I've gone three times this week and will continue that pattern. We also have this drill where he hits a tennis ball with a tennis racket to work on my fielding reaction time."
Photo by VYPE Media's Bradley Collier.
When she's not been training, Cavazos has helped her family at home.
"I help my mom with my little twin brothers and my little cousin, who is special needs," she said. "I help her cook, clean and try to keep them busy. I also have my yorkie that I love spending time with."
Leander Glenn softball player and 2021 Stephen F. Austin commit Emily Berryhill is another person that's making the most of her time away from the sport.
"I run a couple of miles a day and do a workout after," she said. "I also hit and throw into a net, or I will invite a friend over to throw with me. I also try to get a lot done around the house and mainly stay active since we are off for quite some time."
Another sport that usually features a lineup of star-studded athletes is track. One of them is Pflugerville Weiss junior Michaela Francois, who is a very accomplished 2021 prospect. She advanced to the UIL state meet in her first two high school track seasons and won her school's first-ever UIL state track championship in the 2019 100 meter dash.
"As of right now, I am going to my neighborhood amenity center to go run on the treadmill," she said. "I have also been ice cupping my shins so that I am 100 percent when I start getting back into my normal routine with my teammates in track. I have been working with Chux Nwabuko on my speed, agility and core. Our coaches [also] sent out a workout routine that we could do at home, but I haven't really gotten to it yet. I plan on starting it next week."
Another notable track athlete is Austin LBJ Early College's Sean Fresch. The versatile athlete is a 2020 Rice football signee.
"I'm still training," he said. "Can't get behind when the break is over. I stay in the house and try to stay fit with push-ups and squats and sit-ups. I still go to the track and hill. I train with Coach Blake and Shaun."
And don't forget about America's pastime. There's a lot of baseball talent at public and private schools. We start with Lampasas junior Ace Whitehead, who directed the Badgers to the 2019 UIL 4A Division I football state semifinal. This time of year, he is usually found on the baseball diamond and track, and Sam Houston State University has shown interest in his baseball abilities.
"I've been catching up with friends and family that I don't get to spend a lot of time with during the busy spring semester," he said. "I'll be working with a personal baseball trainer and also doing the assigned workouts our strength and conditioning coach sends us."
At San Antonio Christian School, 2020 Texas A&M International University baseball commit Nicholas Arguello is supposed to be finishing his high school career on a high note. Instead, it's wait and see because TAPPS events are pushed back until mid-April.
"I have been working with my dad," he said. "Mostly just hitting in the cages and throwing bullpens at the house. On my own every morning, I have been conditioning myself to prepare for the start of the season."
And don't forget about the UIL winter sports that saw the interruption of their seasons. Boys and girls soccer teams haven't competed in the postseason yet, and 16 of the 24 boys basketball teams haven't played their state semifinal games yet. The boys basketball final four was supposed to feature a trio from the San Antonio area (6A's San Antonio Brandeis, 5A's San Antonio Wagner and 3A's San Antonio Cole) and another program from the Austin area (2A's San Saba), but only the 1A and 3A teams were able to play a state semifinal before the break.
South Texas did get to experience San Antonio Cole's 58-44 victory against Peaster in Thursday's UIL 3A state semifinal, so resumed play would allow the Cougars to face Dallas Madison at the state final four for the second consecutive season and try to win their first state championship since the 1988-1989 season. In addition, San Antonio Wagner would play out its fifth state semifinal in program history and San Antonio Brandeis would compete in its first state final four.
"I'm using my backyard and neighborhood to my ability and still trying to get at least two workouts in a day," said San Antonio Brandeis senior Kyle Schaefer. "I'm using my workouts that I've received from my athletic trainer, PJF Performance. Other than that, I'm getting some conditioning in and working on sharpening my basketball skills as well. I believe I will come back better than I was once it was postponed."
San Saba boys basketball, which is making its first UIL state final four appearance since 1928, was also excited to return to the state's biggest stage. Logan Glover is a member of that program, as well as his high school's baseball and football programs, so he was affected on multiple levels.
"My coach hasn't sent out workouts for me to do, but I will for sure be active[ly] working out with my teammates, whether it be my own workout at the local track, doing an at-home workout without weights or I have a friend who has his own personal weight set," he said. "I will definitely be getting with my teammates to make a plan."
While sports are the main focus for these athletes, they have also enjoyed the free time that's come with the break. That's allowed Casey, Francois, Fresch and Cavazos to binge All American and Whitehead, Glover and Schaefer to play video games.
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A consistently strong Central Texas softball program nearly had a happy ending in 2019. The journey started in Thorndale and concluded 45 miles away in Austin. The Lady Dogs stomped to a 33-6 record and their first ever trip to the state final four. They ultimately fell short 8-7 in a heartbreaking extra inning UIL 2A state championship game against fellow Central Texas squad Crawford at The University of Texas at Austin's Red & Charline McCombs Field. One of the players that plans to continue her program's success in 2020 is Abilene Christian pitcher commit Riley White.
"This experience for my teammates and me was so much fun," White said of last year's run. "We made history for our softball program. The thing I will remember the most was how close I got with my team throughout the season. Knowing how close we came to winning the championship last year has motivated us to work even harder this year to make it back to that game and hopefully win it."
Thorndale needs leaders to finish what it started, and White has the necessary qualities to continue to be one of them.
"I think most people would say I'm stoic or like ice," she said. "My select coach has always said when you watch me, you would never know if we were up by 10 runs or down by 10 runs. I always have the same look on my face. This is a great quality as a pitcher because it means I am not easily rattled and remain very calm for my team."
White is wrapping up her high school career over the next few months and is focused on finishing strong in the classroom and on the field.
"I am working on finishing in the top 10 percent of my class," she said. "I am currently ranked fifth in my class and I would like to move up a spot or two before graduation. I also want to be the best pitcher I can be when I get to ACU. I am lifting early morning weights, refining my pitches and working hard to be the best softball player I can be for my high school team and for ACU."
Thorndale softball has enjoyed exceptional success over the past four years, so memories will swarm White at her high school graduation.
"I have a few memories that stick out in my mind," she said. "I will always remember winning the game to go to the state tournament. It was an amazing moment for our team and our community. Bus rides and team dinners are always super fun and memorable. We have also made lots of memories at our "old school" burger joint, Schroeder's. We go there a lot after games. The owner's son is Bubba. Bubba is the biggest fan of all Thorndale sports. After the final game at state, the team signed a UIL ball and we gave it to him. The smile on his face was amazing and was one of my all time favorite memories."
Once the summer hits, White will turn her attention to her college career. She will be taking her softball talents to West Texas.
"ACU is an amazing school," she said. "It is a place where I can get a great education, play the sport I love and honor God. It is the perfect fit for me. They have an entirely new coaching staff with great energy and passion. I see how much fun they have at practice and their games. The team chemistry is amazing. They just went on a spring break trip together. I can't wait to be a part of their program!"
For more sports coverage, follow Thomas (@Texan8thGen) and VYPE (@VYPEATX) on Twitter.