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Area athletes lament end of their athletic careers

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HARTINGTON — A little more than a week removed from the official premature close to the spring sports season, it has finally sunk in for local athletes.

The COVID-19 pandemic hasn’t just led to the thousands of deaths around the world, but in a smaller scale, it has led to the end of dreams of Northeast Nebraska high schoolers with hopes of track and golf successes in 2020.

That will not happen as it is now about surviving the virus and later beginning a new chapter in life.

Jayda Bernecker of Cedar Catholic was hoping to end her career with strong finishes in the 400 and 800-meter runs and as a member of the 4x400 and 4x800 relay units.

“I was very sad, but I knew it was for the best, so I am really trying to make the best of it,” Bernecker said. “It’s really crushing because I am not going to be a college athlete, so this was my last shot. I don’t get that opportunity, which stinks. I at least got other seasons to (compete). I have been getting together with a smaller group of girls to do fun practices like bike rides or running around the track doing random things we wouldn’t normally get to do during the track season.”

Bernecker is going to attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln after hopefully a summer of life guarding and working at the nursing home.

Hartington-Newcastle senior Aspen Jansen, a shot putter for the Lady Wildcats, feels short changed.

“I know I am supposed to be experiencing a lot of my last year and now I am not allowed to do that,” Jansen said. “I made a lot of memories during my three years in track, but it stinks that I won’t be able to make those this year.”

The cancellation of the season was not a total surprise, though, she said.

“I kind of knew it was going to happen, but when it finally was declared over, I almost started crying because I’ll miss it so much and never experience it again,” she said.

Coaches are trying to have a semblance of a track season via zoom sessions although it obviously won’t be in person, said Jansen, who plans to head to Northeast Community College to major in behavioral science.

“I think it would be ideal to work with teenagers, but I would work with any group,” Jansen said. 

Autumn Lammers was denied a chance to wrap up her long jump and occasional high and triple jump careers. She also ran the 100 and 200-meters and the 4x100-relay.

“I am not necessarily sad about competing, but more about not being with my teammates,” Lammers said. “I loved my coaches and we all had so much fun together and I miss that bonding time. I knew it was coming, but it was sad to actually hear it. 

“It was sad to think even us seniors that it would be our last time.  It’s good that we called it off since it was necessary for the time being. I just hope it’s not stopping anyone from going out and walking or taking a run to get some exercise.”

Lammers plans to attend the University of South Dakota but does not know what her major will be.

Wildcat golfer Dylan Dendinger felt a potential good season for the team was denied.

“We had some good freshmen and new kids coming up that I thought it would be fun to golf with them, so it’s a bummer,” Dendinger said. “I was still hoping we would be able to have districts. I was hoping it would have died down by then so we could have a chance. It’s sad, because it’s the seniors last year and last time to shine and we never got it.

“My best memory was last year at districts because some of our team played really good and it was fun. It was a larger course than we were used to.”

Dendinger is matriculating to Wayne State to major in accounting and finance.

Cedar Catholic Junior Riley Kuehn saw a potential run to the state title dashed for the Trojans.

“My thoughts first were just that we saw it coming and that it was getting bad,” Kuehn said. “Coach (Mike) Johnson said there wasn’t much hope. I am proud of how we played until that day, like we were going to have a season. We have a future. We kept working to keep carrying on the Cedar Catholic tradition. It’s hell or high water.”

Kuehn admitted he would have preferred to see his season end with a bad round at regionals than from his couch at home, and also not being able to play one more time for Johnson who has planned to move on from the head coaching position.

“I won’t get to play with the seniors again, but things happen,” Kuehn said. “I can’t let this drag me down.”