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Greenback seniors affected by no track in 2020

Kahrie Stegman

For high school seniors in spring sports all across the state and nation, COVID-19 has affected them by taking away their final sports season without warning. For some Pratt High seniors in track, this was going to be the final track season of their lives, and one senior was trying track for the first time.

Senior Vanessa Leckner explained what it was like to find out school and sports were cancelled.

“I cried A LOT when I heard that Governor Laura Kelly was shutting down school for the year,” Leckner said. “At that moment I realized that I didn’t get to say goodbye to my classmates, to my teachers, and to the kids that I work with at Southwest. This hurt my heart along with realizing that my (track) season was done. All of this took days for me to process but I have come to the realization that we might as well take this time to better ourselves or to help others.”

Leckner has been involved in track since 7th grade. Since then, she’s competed in the 4x1 Relay, 4x2 Relay, and the Medley Relay in middle school, and the 4x4 relay, 400-meter dash, and 200-meter dash in high school. She also tried the 100-meter dash, 4x1 Relay, Pole vault, and Long Jump, but these weren’t her main events.

“Transitioning into high school track was a tough experience but I had an amazing senior class that year to help me,” Leckner said.

After her experience of transitioning into high school track, Leckner was excited to mentor the freshman class as a senior and see how they perform.

“A lot of them doubted their abilities but I could tell that they were going to do great things this season,” Lecker said.

Leckner was also excited to be coached by the new assistant track coach, Brent Hoelting.

“He’s a great teacher and person and I was ready to have him as my coach,” Leckner said.

Along with watching others perform, she was looking forward to her own progress and performance.

“I had a good feeling about this season because of how much I have grown physically and mentally since last track season,” Leckner said.

Leckner could have lettered for the fourth time in track this season. This also could have been her third year to qualify for State. When the class of 2020 were freshmen, the Pratt track team was League Champion. Leckner went to state her freshman year and placed 2nd in the 4x4 relay. She went to state her junior year to compete in the 4x4 relay as well.

Leckner wants future track athletes at Pratt High to work as hard as they can, because they never know when their final season will be.

“Experience as much as possible,” Leckner said. “You never know what will happen and you need to take advantage of the time that you have.”

Leckner is considering competing in track in college, but hasn’t decided.

Dawson Snider started track in 7th grade as well. He competed in throwing events and relays in middle school, and competed in discus and shotput in high school. He was excited to improve his personal bests this year and he hoped to make it to state and letter a fourth year. Snider is disappointed about the end of this school year and track season and wishes he could see his friends more often. He is also anxious about graduation and what that will look like this year. After his four years in high school, Snider wants future classes to know that hard work pays off.

Snider doesn’t plan on doing track in college, so this would’ve been his final year in track.

Camdon Nickelson’s first year of track was when he moved to Pratt in 7th grade. He has done several events, but pole vault was his main event and he has been a varsity pole vaulter throughout high school.

Like Leckner, Nickelson was excited to be in track with the underclassmen.

“I was looking forward to enjoying my last year with not only the seniors but the underclassmen as well,” Nickelson said. “Track has a different family environment then other sports as well as the relationships with coaches. Not getting to finish out the year is a little disappointing but we are just rolling with the punches.”

Nickelson described how he has reacted to the coronavirus.

“During this virus I have been living life as usual, I still am active, getting my work done, and trying to make the best of things. In times like these staying level headed and making the most of things is really all that can be done.”

After being involved in track since 7th grade, Nickelson learned the value of good sportsmanship and humility.

“Being calm and collected competing is more important than showing off and talking trash,” Nickelson said.

He isn’t planning on doing track in college, but if the opportunity arises, he might consider it.

For Katherine Shanline, this would have been her first year to try pole vault, but her 6th year in track. Since she joined track in 7th grade, she has competed in the half mile, one mile, two mile, and hurdles.

Shanline was most excited to finish her final sports season with more memories.

When Shanline first found out that school and sports were cancelled, she was in denial.

“At first I didn’t really believe it, but now (that) it’s happened we’re had to move on,” Shanline said.

Shanline has advice for future track athletes who may be afraid of being unsuccessful in other people’s eyes.

“Even though I never got a medal and I never won anything, I still put in 100% effort every practice. It’s ok if you don’t get them at all as long as you know you did your best.”

Shanline does not plan on competing in track in college.

Raul Orozco started track in 7th grade after being pressured by the middle school coach, Steve Strecker, thinking he wanted to run sprints. Instead, he ended up running the 800, 4x800, mile, and two mile.

“I was very determined to run sprints, but then I didn’t pay attention and went with the wrong group, the distance group,” Orozco said.

Orozco had specific goals for this track season.

“I was really looking forward to making it to state for the 2 mile,” Orozco said. “I was also hoping to get under 4:40 in the mile and under 2:10 in the 800.”

Orozco hopes he has influenced the underclassmen as much as others have influenced him.

“A lot of seniors my freshman and junior year left a massive positive influence in my running career, so I really hope that I left that same feeling in all my fellow runners,” Orozco said. “I also hope that they learn from my personality and work ethic and just get to work.”

Orozco has not let COVID-19 stop him from self-improvement.

“This whole COVID-19 situation hit me as hard as any other senior,” Orozco said. “A lot of ‘lasts’ were lost but my motivation is still present. I have continued running and working out.”

He has also taken this extra time to start learning a new language: basic mandarin.

Orozco lettered the past 3 years in track, was a 3 time CKL placer; once in the 3200 and twice in the 4x8.

Orozco is proud of his teammates and himself.

“I’m sorry to see all my teammates go without one final meet but I’m proud of all I’ve done and what they’ve done,” Orozco said. “I hope all my teammates keep working and keep representing Pratt in the best way possible.”

Orozco is especially thankful for his coaches, Derek Liggett and Kathy Hitz.

“They’re both the best high school coaches I could’ve asked for,” Orozco said.

Next year, Orozco will be attending Southwestern College and competing in their cross country, indoor and outdoor track programs.

Grant May also started competing in track in 7th grade, where he ran the 400 and high jumped, and he lettered the past two years. By participating in track, it has helped him in football, and he hopes to inspire others to go out for track.

“I hope more football players go out for track because of me,” May said. “It really helped me get faster.”

May was looking forward to this track season, but instead is maintaining social distancing.

“The team was great this year, I was looking forward to spending time with them,” May said. I’ve mostly been staying at my house. I do my school work and work every day. Most days I try to get outside to walk the dog but that’s about it.”

May will not be continuing track in college.

Riley Decker’s 6th and final year in track would have been this year, where he would try to compete again after sitting out last season due to an injury. He competed in the one mile, two mile, and occasionally the 800 meter dash.

“This season I was looking forward to hopefully recovering from last year and being able to comfortably run competitively again,” Decker said.

To Decker, even those who aren’t competing or coaching are still a valuable part of the team. “Even if you manage to hurt yourself you can still help the team and cheer them on,” Decker said.

Decker is handling COVID-19 well, but is disappointed about the losses of sports and events.

Since Decker can’t compete this year, he won’t be continuing track in college.

“If this season went well I would continue in college but from now on I am running just to run,” Decker said.

This was going to be Abby Green’s first year in track, and she planned on running long distance, such as the one or two mile.

“I was looking forward to seeing how I would do as a newcomer to track,” Green said. “Due to this situation of having sports being canceled, I now no longer get to see if I could have done well.”

Since Green has asthma, she has never gone out for sports.

“In the past, I have had to be hospitalized because my asthma got so bad and I had to sit out of activities like physical education classes or even just going on the swings in elementary school, Green said. “However, I haven’t had to deal with my asthma getting bad in several years, so I thought I would try out running track and see if I could keep my asthma manageable.”

Not only is she disappointed about track being canceled, she is disappointed that she will never get to be the teacher’s aide at the preschool again.

“I miss spending time with those kids every day,” Green said. “They put a smile on my face, even on my roughest days and it’s hard not being able to spend time with them.”

Green doesn’t plan on trying track in college.

Finally, Derek Roadhouse is another senior missing out on his final season of track. Roadhouse would have returned back from injury as well this year. In 7th and 8th grade, he competed in the 4x100, 4x200, and long jump, and continued the long jump in high school. He was a manager his junior due to a torn ACL, but lettered all 3 years of high school track.

In college, he will be playing football at Sterling College, in Sterling. He may or may not compete in track and field.