Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Sports canceled for year

 

April 1, 2020

Ron Warnick

Tucumcari catcher Loren Chavez throws the ball to second base during a photography session in mid-March. Chavez concentrated most of her energies on softball during her senior year until the team's season was canceled Friday.

Area teams undoubtedly felt disappointment at the cancellation Friday of all spring sports for the rest of the school year. The team that probably felt that anguish the most was Tucumcari's softball team.

That's because the Lady Rattlers had 10 seniors returning from a team that finished 17-5 - the program's best season ever - and qualified for the Class 3A state tournament. Combined with offseason workouts since November, the team and its coach held high hopes before the coronavirus pandemic shut down the upcoming season in mid-March.

Second-year coach CJ Ogelsby, who held a virtual team meeting via smartphone Friday, said his players were "devastated and hurt" by the news.

"I thought we'd finish in the top five (at state)," he said. "I was really looking forward to this season because it was my first full year going though the offseason. The players were much more confident, in shape. There were so many things we were building on."

One player upset by the season's abrupt end was senior catcher Loren Chavez.

"I cried; I don't understand it," she said Friday afternoon during a phone interview. "I want to keep my family safe and everything (from the virus), but I wanted to have my last season and finish my high-school career right."

Chavez, who hit .493 with a team-leading 10 doubles last season, declined to go out for volleyball so she could work on her softball skills. She attended camps at Highlands University, and she worked out with the rest of team since November.

She hopes to play softball next year at Highlands or Luna Community College but acknowledges that prospect will be more uncertain because of the current circumstance.

"I don't have a season for them to come watch me," she said.

Ogelsby said the lack of a season would make it more difficult for his other senior players to play college softball.

"This was going to be the one season to send the tapes in, send in the videos (to colleges)," he said.

Erica Vasquez was another Lady Rattler looking forward to her senior year. Ogelsby said the outfielder had learned to slap-hit and switch-hit during the offseason, and he'd penciled her in as a leadoff hitter. She also attended a softball camp at Eastern New Mexico University to boost her leadership skills.

Vasquez said she had an inkling the season would be canceled after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said earlier in the week that the closure of public schools likely would be extended.

"I was upset, but I was preparing myself for the worst," Vasquez said. "It was hard on him and all of us, the seniors especially."

Vasquez said she hopes to play college softball, but that will have to be put on hold for a while. She said she is enrolling in the Air Force after she graduates from Tucumcari. She plans to earn a degree after her military stint, and she thinks she might resume softball at that time.

New Tucumcari baseball coach Dennis Dysart was looking forward to rebuilding the program after a 1-21 collapse last season. The Rattlers played two games in early March against West Las Vegas - both losses - before their season was shut down.

"It's frustrating, especially for the seniors," he said of the season's cancellation. "I think we would have had a pretty good team with the pitching we had. I enjoyed being with the kids."

Tucumcari boys and girls track coach Wayne Ferguson also was anticipating a rebuilding year for his programs. He wasn't surprised the season was canceled.

"It's disappointing, but with other states doing it and the number of (coronavirus) cases in New Mexico still growing, I kind of expected this," he said.

Ferguson, who also is Tucumcari's athletic director, noted some online chatter about parents and fans possibly petitioning the New Mexico Activities Association to have a summer season for those canceled spring sports.

But he said those seniors would scatter once they graduate, and schools' insurance policies don't cover teams during the offseason. Ferguson said schools also would be preparing for fall sports during the late summer.

"I don't think it will happen," he said of the proposed summer seasons. "The Summer Olympics already have been postponed. I don't see how people can put on softball, baseball, track and golf during the same time."

Also affected were spring sports at Logan, Grady and San Jon. The Lady Longhorns were coming off a state championship in track, and San Jon's Dustin Bryant was returning from a sophomore season where he placed in several events at the state meet. Grady/San Jon pitching ace Chisum Rush was looking to add to his accomplishments after averaging more than two strikeouts per inning a year ago.

Ogelsby acknowledged Friday he was so despondent, he questioned whether he'd return to coach next season.

"I'm just so down and out about the whole thing ... I don't know what to think. I'm kind of up in the air about it. It takes a toll on you.

"All the time I spent away from my family (while coaching) ... but it's something I love so much doing. I'm going to have to talk to my wife about it."

 
 

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