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Hope a powerful thing for high school athletes with season on hold

Districts have followed state mandates that schools be closed until April 15.

ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Their seasons have come to a halt, but there’s still one thing keeping area high school athletes sharp and focused.

Hope.

It’s a powerful thing. And at this point in the coronavirus pandemic, it’s about the only beacon left in what has become a surreal and ever-changing season.

“I do have hope. Everybody has hope,” said Oakleaf softball outfielder Jaeda McFarland. “We’re just staying positive and pressing our hashtag. We’re just hopeful that the FHSAA and Clay County will continue to suspend while they gather more information.

“It doesn’t just affect athletes, it affects students. There are some senior activities that may not happen and there’s testing that’s not going to happen now so I think everybody’s a little shocked and doing their best with what they can right now.”

While college athletes across the board have seen their seasons come to an abrupt end, high school athletes in the state are still clinging to hope that it’s not over just yet.

For however long it lasts, this is the new normal.

Providence baseball coach Mac Mackiewitz said that his players have used the time off from school to work out or go hit together in whatever batting cages they can find open, sometimes sending him video clips of their swings and asking for advice.

Districts have followed state mandates that schools be closed until April 15. That has left a little bit of wiggle room and optimism that spring sports could get a reprieve if things begin their slow crawl back to normal by the middle of next month.

“My sister she’s a college athlete, and watching her, she doesn’t get to do anything, but there’s still hope for us,” said Oakleaf softball infielder Kaylee Lambrecht.

Last week, Oakleaf softball coach Christina Thompson wanted to get that message of patience out. And so the saying came to life and the hashtag along with it. Every high school athlete is likely saying the same thing — #PressPauseSoWeCanPlay.

It has caught on, both in real life and across social media.

The focus has rightfully been on the pandemic and safety and curtailing risks associated with the spread of the virus, but Thompson said that she’s thankful a blanket cancellation hasn’t been ordered yet.

The NCAA canceled March Madness, as well as the men’s and women’s College World Series. Those latter events weren’t scheduled until mid-June. The FHSAA and area school districts have yet to scrap the season, providing a shred of hope that maybe, just maybe, there could be sports, even an abbreviated schedule, at some point.

“Hold on to hope, hold on to the silver lining,” Thompson said. “Don’t let yourself become lazy. Find ways to stay active, safely, but find ways to stay active, hit where you can, pitch where you can, throw where you can, but stay positive."


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