Jackson Alumni Stadium

Jackson’s Alumni Stadium is lit up for 20 minutes and 20 seconds in support of the graduating class of 2020 as news came down from Governor Mike DeWine that school would be closed for the remainder of the school year, which in turn meant the official cancelation of the spring sports season. Oak Hill, Wellston and Vinton County, along with other schools in the state of Ohio also lit up their football stadiums with No. 20 across the scoreboard.

I won’t lie — the first sportsless week of the spring wasn’t all that bad a month ago. And being the type of person I am, I don’t like taking days off knowing I can cover a game and give the kids coverage they deserve. So it was sort of a nice little break from the consistent hustle as a sports reporter.

But had I known the interactions I had with members, coaches and community members at Zane Trace’s boys basketball regional semifinal game back on March 11 would be my last interactions like that of the school year, I would have savored it more.

All along, I knew deep down that school, and likely the rest of the sports season, wasn’t coming back once it was put on hold for a month. But like a team down 20 points in the fourth quarter, losing wasn’t going to be allowed to be a reasonable result and I wasn’t giving up hope.

But I would love nothing more than the chance to get back out and cover some action. Those first few weeks of the spring season can be miserably cold and, for some sports, miserably wet as well. But now, I’d take a month straight of that instead of nothing now that Gov. Mike DeWine has closed school for the rest of the 2019-20 school year.

Although I knew it was coming, I still can’t begin to describe the level of heartbreak that I felt for the seniors who got their final year of spring sports taken from them. I had gotten to know a lot of kids in the area who are multi-sport athletes, and couldn’t wait to watch them thrive on the spring sports scene.

It was at that moment of official closing that I realized just how much I miss the social side of covering prep sports. I’ve written a couple columns before about the communal aspect of this job and how enjoyable it is, but having it taken totally away has shown me I still managed to take it for granted to a degree.

By the spring season of my first year completely here, not to mention the number of connections I had with coaches and other members of the sports community, I’ve gotten to build some really good relationships with a lot of different people. I’ve gotten to watch kids for a nearly a year grow into the young adults they’re becoming as they move on to bigger and better things after high school.

There isn’t a school in the area I don’t enjoy covering action from. You never know what —or who — you will see on any given day at any given school. But wherever I end up each day, I know I’m going to enjoy myself and be in good company.

At first I thought it was just the games in general that I missed. And I do miss it a lot, but it’s the social interaction before, during and after games that really is the most fun part of my job. Much like the baseball and softball players in the area, I’d give just about anything to be on the diamond watching them play one more time.

To the graduating class of 2020, tough times don’t last but tough people do. I wish you all nothing but the absolute best as you move onto the next chapter of your life. Go make your dreams a reality.

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