With spring sports season abruptly axed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, so goes any chances of virtual or in-person banquets for teams

Then-sophomores+pose+for+a+picture+at+the+2019+Track+%26+Field+banquet+last+May+in+the+Sunny+Hills+quad.+Photo+used+with+permission+from+Ella+Eseigbe.%C2%A0

Then-sophomores pose for a picture at the 2019 Track & Field banquet last May in the Sunny Hills quad. Photo used with permission from Ella Eseigbe. 

Grace Johnson

Tacos sizzling on the grill in the Sunny Hills quad while student athletes sit at tables chit chatting; then the lights go off.

The jumbotron suddenly lights up with a slideshow in dedication to all of the seniors on the softball team.

Second baseman and outfielder, then-junior Izzy Pena, observes the program on the big screen and thinks to herself that she cannot wait until it’s her turn to be recognized the following year. And as the 2019-2020 school year comes to a close this week, Pena will never get her chance. 

“I think the idea of a virtual banquet would be very cool,” the senior said. “However, our coach has not said anything about a banquet so as of now, I have assumed it is canceled.”

The question as to whether spring sports teams should hold a banquet — whether a virtual one or a postponed, in-person event in the fall — arose after Sunny Hills was shut down in response to the coronavirus crisis in mid-March. A month later, CIF officially called an end to the spring sports season with many teams having played only non-league matches or games.

Since then, California Gov. Gavin Newsom had issued stay-at-home orders and the shutting down of non-essential businesses. Restaurants could no longer offer dine-in services as well. 

With only so few games played in the spring sports season before it was abruptly ended, what’s there to celebrate? Should coaches still recognize seniors for the years they contributed to their spring sport?

With the slight possibility of their 2020 spring season being moved to the following fall, softball head coach Kenny Knighten decided to put the softball banquet on hold.

“There is a small possibility of fall ball, but I really don’t know at the moment,” Knighten said. “But for now, the banquet is definitely on hold, and maybe we could look to do something in the future.”

Shortstop, third baseman and outfielder junior Kristin Valido said she would be in favor of having some type of banquet or bonding to hang out with her team and seniors.

“Technically because our season didn’t happen, I am not sure about having a banquet, but we could always plan something ourselves,” Valido said. 

She also expressed how much her team treasures and respects the two seniors on the softball team.

“We love our seniors and feel really sorry for how their last year of high school ended, so we want to be able to do something for them,” Valido said. “They make us happy and want to play better. We appreciate them so much; they support us, and we want to be able to support them.”

In response to being asked about the possibility of a virtual Zoom banquet, first-year track and field head coach Jacob Holloway said he is unsure.

“Although having a virtual banquet through Zoom [would be] a good idea, because we only had two out of 14 meets this season, there are really not enough results to justify a banquet,” Holloway said.

Long jump, triple jump and high jump athlete senior Katya Wang has been a part of the SH track and field program for four years but does not feel she needs to be recognized during a virtual banquet.

“I am grateful for the time I had on the Sunny Hills track and field team,” Wang said. “But I do not think it is incredibly necessary to hold a virtual banquet seeing that we ended so early in the season.”

Aquatics director Keith Nighswonger has already told his swimmers that he doesn’t plan on any kind of end-of-the-year event.

Swimmer senior Evelyn McIlveen agrees but wishes Nighswonger would be open to something involving his senior athletes.

“I think having a banquet is not the best idea because we did not get that far into the season,” Mcliveen said. “But I think something to celebrate the seniors that did not get to have their final season would be nice.”

Nighswonger said for now, he doesn’t foresee anything more for his teams, especially in light of his assessment that his seniors are going through a tough time at the moment dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences.

“I feel very bad for the seniors who have trained all their lives to be dominant in their senior years,” he said. “The word tragic is often overused, but the term is appropriate when talking about senior athletes who may never play organized sports again.”