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Stoetzer: There won’t soon be another spring sports season like this one

Farewell, Class of 2020 high school athletes. Safe to say, yours has been the craziest finish to a sports season one can remember.

When August gets here, I’ll be able to celebrate 20 years with the Times (more than that if you count part-time work, but this is the only job I’ve had after college). I’ve seen my share of obstacles that get in the way of high school sports, and each time Carroll County has persevered.

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The aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The Washington, D.C., sniper scare the following year. Hurricane Ivan, which wiped out a weekend in 2004 (I watched a massive tree get uprooted from my apartment bedroom window at the time, which was sobering).

More hurricanes over the years. Blizzards and snowstorms. Heavy rains. Unplayable field conditions (turf fields, anyone?).

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All perils of getting through a high school sports season. But every time, we survive. Until this spring, when the coronavirus pandemic put a clamp like no other on the 2019-20 school year.

Springs sports started practice in March, and some teams got through some scrimmages before schools were closed and the season put on hold.

It wound up getting canceled for good in late April, and a precedent was set. Coaches and athletes were heartbroken, and an outpouring of support for the seniors grew in a hurry.

Rightfully so, as they didn’t get a chance to close out their high school athletic careers. Only a small percentage of them move onto the college ranks for sports. Their four years of high school is always a time to shine.

Except for this spring.

Still, Carroll County’s communities have showed plenty of support for the athletes who were denied. Several high schools created social media posts to recognize seniors and college-bound players. Towns and neighborhoods put together drive-by parades for graduates. Graduations took place with social distancing measures and health guidelines in place.

Makes for some unforgettable moments, for sure. Just not the ones these athletes have been used to since they first picked up a bat, or put on a glove, or kicked a ball.

South Carroll wanted nothing more than to defend its Class 2A girls lacrosse state championship, with the Cavaliers coming off a thrilling overtime win in their 2019 final.

Westminster pulled off a boys-girls sweep in the 3A lacrosse state finals last spring, the Owls’ second in as many years. The quest for a three-peat was in the works, for sure.

Liberty’s girls tennis doubles duo of Emily Brecker and Noelle Htwar went undefeated in 2019, giving the Lions their first state championship in program history.

Brecker and Htwar were set to make another run. So were Westminster’s lacrosse teams. And South Carroll’s girls squad.

Not to mention the reigning Carroll County Athletic League spring champs, such as Century baseball and girls lacrosse, and Manchester Valley softball, and so on.

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They’ll be back, of course. It just doesn’t mean much to the 2020 spring teams that were about to go on a journey together.

We keep records of every team county champion and Times Player of the Year, going back to 1990. I can’t tell you how weird it felt editing the documents with “NO SEASON” next to each sport.

One day, years from now, someone who covers high school sports for this paper will check back to see what went on at the start of this decade. That person won’t need a long history lesson on the pandemic to figure out what happened.

But that doesn’t take away from the effect it had on us this spring.

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