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Pandemic forces seniors to put an early end to their high school careers

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HARTINGTON — The only spring competition Northeast Nebraskans will experience has come and gone: The COVID-19 virus has defeated the spring sports season as the state announced the closing of the 2020 calendar.

Now, it’s the world against the bug.

As the dust settles on what could have been and the planet focuses on what could happen, area coaches share their feelings on the cancellation of what promised to be a strong campaign.

Mike Johnson, Cedar Catholic golf coach, was looking for a strong finish for his senior golfers in his last season at the helm for the Trojans.

“Obviously, we are disappointed that our season has been cancelled this year,” he said. “We also understand that the decision to cancel the golf season is in the best interest for the health of our student athletes and for our community. I feel really bad for our seniors, Ted Bengston and Mason Schaefer. They have put in a lot of time since they were freshmen.

“All of my golfers have really dedicated themselves, and for them to miss their season is hard on all of us.”

Johnson also sadly sees the chapter close on a career in a less ceremonious note.

“This was going to be my 22nd and final season as head boys golf coach at Cedar Catholic,” he said. “It has been an honor to have coached the Cedar Catholic golf team. I have been blessed to have had kids commit themselves to be the best that they can be. I know that all of the underclassmen will come back next spring hungry and ready to go.”

Cedar Catholic track coach Chad Cattau said this has been a difficult spring for everyone.

“Each person has had their own battles to deal with,” Cattau said. “Although losing the season is hard to deal with, I am thankful that all of our athletes have been safe thus far from the virus. This is going to be very special for us, but there are many people out there that are battling way bigger issues than a lost sports season.

“This entire situation will never be forgotten because of how unique it is to the entire world. We just need to continue to move forward together and pray that we all stay safe.”

Hartington-Newcastle track coach Blair Kalin was hoping for a strong season from his squad. “I was hopeful we would have a

“I was hopeful we would have a spring season, but I understand and support their decision,” he said. “The safety of people is the most important thing at this time. I am sure spring sports participants are disappointed. For the seniors who would be competing for their last year, this is a tough deal.

“This is tough for all spring participants around the country everyone is dealing with the same situation. Everyone will need to pull together and help support one another.”

HNS golf coach Ken Kneifl said his team could have used a year to gain experience, but being safe and healthy is more important.

“At the top of our thoughts right now is the seriousness of this pandemic,” Kneifl said. “To be honest, I think most of us felt this was inevitable. Of course, with this decision brings a disappointment for the kids, especially the seniors. Golf is fun, competing is fun, but it is simply not going to happen this spring. We are hoping that perhaps if we get a handle on COVID-19 before school starts next fall that we could have some type of get together with the players and their families and bring closure to a season that never really began.

“We wish our seniors Dylan Dendinger, Brady Heitman, and Sam Harms the very best. They will always be part of the Wildcat golf family. Our other four players this year were all freshmen and sophomores. These kids along with some of the kids behind them give rise to a bright future.”