Luke Blackburn

Westfall junior Luke Blackburn prepares to take a swing in the batting cage that sits in the pole barn of his parents during the extended spring break.

Laura McKenzie likely shared the sentiment of many spring sports athletes across the state of Ohio on March 12 following the final day of practice due to the spread of the coronavirus.

“(Amanda-Clearcreek softball coach Ben Hedrick) said, ‘I’m gonna be honest, this is probably the last practice we’re gonna have for a while’,” said McKenzie, a junior on the team. “A number of things ran through my head, and I’m sure other players too.

“One of my thoughts, and the most I’m worried about is, the set back that we would have as a team, going through three or more weeks of conditioning, hitting, fielding every day, and then out of nowhere a three-week break.”

Governor Mike DeWine ordered an expanded three-week spring break for schools in the state to try and limit the spread of the coronavirus. The Ohio High School Athletic Association then suspended all spring sports practices until Monday, April 6, the same day classes are currently scheduled to resume, and delayed the first day for scrimmages and/or games until Saturday, April 11 under a tentative schedule it released.

The association also imposed a no-contact period until April 6 for all OHSAA sports, forbidding coaches to supervise “voluntary” workouts.

It’s been up to area athletes since March 13 to condition on their own to stay in shape, as they hope the coronavirus can be brought under control and they can return to practice and eventually play a condensed season.

Amanda-Clearcreek senior Peyton Madison discussed his workout routine and the approach he is taking to the unusual stoppage.

“I’m working out for baseball by hitting off of the tee everyday and doing strength and conditioning workouts on my own,” he said. “I’ve been doing push-ups and sit-ups before bed every night and I’ve been going to the track and running at least a mile when I can.

“I’m just basically working like nothing ever happened in case we do get to play, so I’m not behind or out of shape.”

Westfall junior Luke Blackburn is taking advantage of his parents converting their pole barn into a facility to workout in for baseball.

“I now have the opportunity daily to get in the batting cage to get in some swings and throw some pitches,” he said. “I still am fortunate to be able to go to my pitching coach twice a week, too.

“I have also been working out everyday for at least an hour lifting weights, strengthening my core and eating lots of protein.”

After going 15-13 in 2018, the Mustangs had a breakout 23-5 season last year as they won the Scioto Valley Conference and Southeast District championships. Blackburn is one of the top players returning to the team after becoming the ace for the Mustangs last season.

“I am trying to figure out how to maintain hope and stay in shape with confidence that I will get back on the field with my teammates at Westfall to play baseball and continue a legacy that we started last season,” Blackburn said.

Westfall senior Darby Minor is fully healthy after missing over half of last softball season with a torn labrum that limited her ability to swing normally when she did return to the diamond.

“I worked very hard in physical therapy to be able to play in the last couple games with my team with some restrictions still, but it was better than nothing,” Minor said of last season. “I was looking forward to being at my full potential this season with a great group of athletes.

“I’ve been really just focusing on making myself better as a person and player. I am trying to stay positive and have hope in what is to come. The time off hasn’t stopped me from practicing the sport I love, just physically playing it but all we can do at this point is hope and pray for the best.”

Minor and her teammates are looking to build on a resume that includes three conference championships, a district championship and a district runner-up finish last season.

“Our senior class started this game together when we were very young and have grown up playing the game together,” Minor said. “We were looking forward to this year to adding to those accomplishments.”

Circleville senior Sidney Gray is hoping to get to experience the traditions of a senior year — prom, senior night and graduation — that up until this school year many of us have taken for granted.

“We can’t control (this situation) and everything happens for a reason,” she said. “As a senior, I wish I could get my senior season, senior night, graduation and prom, but it’s out of my control. Circleville has done a wonderful job connecting with students and providing us with everything we need.

“I know they want us all to be happy, but it’s not their decision if we come back or not. This virus is something no one has seen before, and what we are doing we believe is the best for our community and state.”

Gray has been working out with her family and credits them for helping to get her through this unusual spring.

“I’ve had to take up working out on my own hoping we get to play again starting April 6th,” she said. “Some days I run and do a work out at my house. Then when I can I hit with my brothers and father.

“My family is a big part in my success with everything I do in sports and without them this break would be so much worse. Getting to hit and throw with my brothers makes the thought of not being able to play my senior year go away. I can’t stop working, because I want our team to succeed this year when we get to play hopefully.”

Logan Elm seniors Avery Clouse and Colton Mace are coming off an All-Ohio season that included winning just the second state tournament match in Pickaway County boys tennis history.

Clouse noted the uncertainty about whether he’ll get to play his senior season as the worst aspect of the extended spring break.

“The downtime isn’t the killer, it’s not knowing whether or not we’re going to be given our chance to do it one last time,” he said. “I can only hope we do, because I’ve been waiting for this my whole tennis career and I want to try my best to put Logan Elm tennis on the map before I leave.

“I want to lead my team to another league title, I wish to be player of the year again and finally get a shot at state to move to the second day and maybe farther. I just want the chance that I deserve. I want my work to not go to waste and show that even through these tough times sports will help bring us all together and get us through hard times.”

When Clouse can dodge the rain, he tries to get out and stay in peak form.

“As far as I know we will still have the tennis season, so I’m not taking any time off and I’m sticking to practicing each day if the weather allows,” he said. “I am a person who cannot sit down and I want to always get better, so this downtime is no exception.

“Everyday you can get better and one practice could make the difference between winning a match at state or going home early. …I know Colton feels the same way and we have been really working towards this goal and will keep working on it.”

Logan Elm senior Haden Karshner is a two-time state placer in the discus and is concerned with only what he can control.

“I try not to worry about the delay, because it’s not something I have control over,” he said. “My mindset is pretty relaxed and I am dialed in knowing that all I can do is prepare for the shortened season and keep working.

“My goal is to be ready when the time comes. I hope I get an opportunity to finish my high school career and accomplish the goals I have set for myself. If in the worst case scenario I don’t get a final season, I will just use this preparation to make myself a better college athlete.”

Karshner increased his training in the offseason leading into indoor track and field during the winter and has used the break to rest.

“For the first time this year I trained very hard for my indoor track season and had good results,” he said. “I was able to get a career best distance and break the shot put school record on top of that. The four-month indoor season made me pretty tired, so I used this last week just to rest a little bit.

“I’ve been able to continue weight lifting at home, because that’s where I do all of my training and I’ve only thrown once so far. I’ve tried to use this time to step back and refresh. My weight lifting training hasn’t changed, because I do that in my basement and I’m pretty lucky to have a decent setup. “

Karshner plans to ramp up his preparation in the coming weeks, hoping to throw in an outdoor competition for the first time this track and field season in mid-April.

“In the upcoming weeks, my plan is to continue to lift and get in three-or-four throwing sessions a week,” he said. “I’m lucky because all I really need is a slab of concrete and some grass to get a throwing session in.”

Circleville senior Peyton Perini noted the difficulties with the delay as she works to return to the state track and field championships after finishing 11th in the Division II 400 run last year.

“With everything going on, it has been hard to train the way I need to train as I am not able to have contact and help directly from my coaches,” she said. “I have tried to stay ready by running, weight lifting and doing core workouts on my own.

“The trails in Circleville have really helped with giving me a public place to run and train for my events. Running during this time has helped me to get out of the house and stay active during this time, which has helped my mindset to stay focused and ready.”

Perini discussed missing working out with her teammates and coaches during the break and how it has made her appreciate what she has even more in life.

“This time has been tough, because I miss my teammates and coaches but by taking this time away from one another I hope that it will help in the long run of getting to come back to school and having a spring sports season,” she said. “This situation has made me realize that you should never take things for granted and to always enjoy where you are in life before its too late.”

As area athletes work to stay ready to compete, they know that larger events are going on around them and hope like the rest of us that coronavirus can be brought under control and defeated in the coming weeks.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by this virus and the people taking care of them,” Karshner said. “I also am thankful for all the workers and people in the community that are out working everyday to make sure everyone has what they need during this time of quarantine.

“I hope as a country we are able to do what we have to in order to stop this virus, so everything can go back to normal and we can all go back to living our lives.”

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