They knew it was coming.
That didn’t make the confirmation that arrived Friday for high school students that the spring sports season was complete before it ever really started any easier to take, especially for the Capital Region’s seniors who won’t get to play those final games with their childhood friends.
In the end, restrictions put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic left the spring sports season to consist of several days of practice before it was halted in mid-March along with in-person classroom instruction. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that school buildings will remain closed through the academic year, thus ending the chance for some type of abbreviated spring sports season.
For the Capital Region’s high school seniors, that means senior-day and senior-night celebrations now join the list of events they’ve lost from their final year of high school.
Here is how five of those seniors reacted to Friday’s development.
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Along with so many of her classmates and teammates, Johnstown senior Madison Delgado spent so many hours last summer working to make sure they could play sports during the 2019-20 academic year after budget cuts left the school’s athletic programs needing to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Delgado was able to play soccer last fall, but lost her lacrosse season, which was set to see Johnstown attempt to defend the area championship it won in 2019.
“It’s tough because most of us put so much time and effort into raising that money just to have a chance to play — and now we can’t,” Delgado said. “It’s tough to wrap your head around that.”
An all-state selection last year as a defender, the 17-year-old Delgado was excited to play one final high school season with her friends, and especially with her younger sister Brooke.
“So I was heartbroken,” Delgado said. “This is my last season, and I was looking forward to playing my last season with my amazing team. Now, it’s not going to happen.”
Delgado said she knew Friday’s decision was likely to be made, “but I was just praying we’d get past this and we could have a lacrosse season.” Her team stayed connected on a daily basis even since in-person practices and competitions were first suspended, though, and she doesn’t expect the season’s cancellation to change that.
“We’re a tight-knit team,” said Delgado, who will head next to SUNY Cobleskill. “I’m pretty sure we’re all going to keep doing all that stuff together.”
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Noah Foster was looking to make an impact one more time as a first-year member of the Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons outdoor track and field team.
He was eyeing a spot on the Golden Knights’ 400-meter relay unit when spring practice was halted in March due to the coronavirus, and never got a chance to show off the speed that made him so difficult to defend as an all-star football receiver during the fall.
“I was going to do it for the fun of it,” said the senior, who ran a 4.4-second 40-yard dash at the Syracuse camp. “Plus, it would have been good training. A good way to stay in shape.”
Foster is still working out every day on his own, but he’d rather be doing it surrounded by teammates, and with other Golden Knights nearby on adjacent playing fields.
“I feel bad for all of the sports players, especially the seniors,” Foster said. “I grew up with a lot of these kids.”
Foster scored 25 touchdowns including 15 on receptions during the football season when his Holy Trinity team reached the Section II Class B title game. On the basketball court, he averaged 18 points for a Bishop Gibbons squad that won 18 times and captured the Western Athletic Conference Hudson Division championship.
“I was looking forward to the [spring] season,” said Foster, who is considering several colleges. “It would have been a blast.”
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Schalmont senior sprinter Mia D’Ambrosio is holding out hope that her sensational high school career will include a finishing kick at the outdoor nationals, which have been pushed back to July 16-19 in North Carolina.
“I just want one more,” the 18-year-old said. “I want to put it all out there. I don’t know if I’ll get that chance, but as of now, it’s still on.”
D’Ambrosio was anticipating another big outdoor season after clocking Section II’s fastest times ever in the 100 and 200 and winning numerous championships as a junior. She clocked an all-time area best 11.89 in the 100 in the state meet qualifier.
“I wanted to do two things,” D’Ambrosio said. “My first goal was the senior New York record in the 100 which is 11.61. I also wanted to make All-American at the nationals, which is top six in the Championship division.”
At last year’s nationals, D’Ambrosio competed in the Emerging Elite division and ran an all-time Section II-best 23.94 in the 200 preliminaries and later placed sixth in the final. She also placed second in the EE 400 final at the national meet.
D’Ambrosio said she had a bad feeling when spring practice was halted and schools began to shut down in March.
“Ever since we closed, I knew we weren’t going to go back,” the North Carolina State commit said. “Still, I’m in shock. This is so horrible. I wanted to say goodbye to everyone.”
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After breaking his leg in three places during Week 2 of the Canajoharie/Fort Plain football season, senior Brady Fureno had one major goal in mind — to make sure he was ready for his fifth and final baseball season at Fort Plain.
He was ready, but that season won’t happen, leaving Fureno to grapple with that.
“Not getting the chance,” Fureno said, “is devastating.”
Fureno’s four seasons for the Hilltoppers included a 2016 Class D state championship, plus back-to-back Section II titles in 2018 and 2019. With a veteran group set to return this year, hopes were high for another deep run.
“We had a really good year last year, and we only lost a few seniors,” Fureno said. “We knew we had a really good chance of going far this year. We’re all really heartbroken that we didn’t get the chance to even play at all.”
Fureno said he’ll look back on his high school career with pride, and is looking forward to moving on to Le Moyne College, where he’ll play alongside his older brother Drew for at least one year — possibly two, if Drew takes advantage of the extra year of eligibility provided to spring athletes by the NCAA.
He’s taking the end in stride, but the sting of no senior season remains.
“All of us were looking forward to a senior season and having one last run for our school, representing our community,” Fureno said. “Now, it isn’t going to happen. It’s really tough, but we all understand why it has to happen.”
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When she first heard, she couldn’t stop the tears.
“Losing our season,” Ballston Spa softball senior Lauren Kersch said, “I just broke down real fast.”
Kersch lost her sophomore season, too. That one was because of a knee injury that kept her sidelined as the Scotties made their run to the 2018 state championship game. As a junior, though, Kersch starred as one of the team’s top hitters and its No. 1 pitcher — and delivered one of the greatest pitching performances in Section II history to help her team make it back to the state championship.
That day last June, Kersch pitched every inning of her team’s record-setting 20-inning win in the state semifinals against Section XI’s Sayville — and, then, Kersch pitched later that day in the Scotties’ championship loss to Section VI’s Williamsville East.
“Lauren pitched her heart out,” Ballston Spa head coach Amanda Fifield said that day of Kersch, who totaled 26 strikeouts, 26 innings and 274 pitches during the day’s doubleheader.
And, with Friday’s news that the spring season had been canceled, that day’s games ended up as the final ones of Kersch’s high school softball career. That was an unexpected, and unwelcome, development, but that Kersch gave everything she had in her final games playing Scotties softball provided her some solace.
“I’m so proud for my team and where we went last year,” Kersch said.
Ballston Spa, of course, was a favorite to make another postseason run this spring. That won’t happen, and the next games Kersch will play for a school will be at SUNY Geneseo where she plans to study psychology. Her hope, though, is that the situation will be conducive at some point this summer that all her high school teammates will be able to get together to play one final game as a group.
“It’s just really hard to leave this all behind,” Kersch said.