It’s the end of April and the dust has settled — students will not report back to school and the remainder of the high school sports season is canceled.
As a whole, the public has had time to consume this information and try to move, but that notion isn’t as easy for the thousands of seniors across Louisiana and the country who are faced with this reality
Not only did the seniors lose out on opportunities to compete, but the COVID-19 pandemic has taken away prom for some and even maybe graduation.
For three seniors in West Baton Rouge Parish, they’ve had to face the reality alone when it comes to athletics. Port Allen softball’s Abbie Bodiford, Brusly softball’s Angel Bradford and Port Allen baseball’s Peyton Olinde were the lone seniors on their respective squads.
Each was looking forward to promising seasons in their own right and acknowledging that this pandemic has taken certain things from them that may be bigger than stepping on the field to hit a ball.
“It hasn’t hit me yet that it’s actually all over,” Bodiford said. “It sucks a lot. We didn’t see much recruitment because the season ended so soon. It makes it hard for some of us who hadn’t already committed somewhere and were trying to get noticed.
“It just sucks that every sport got a chance to finish their season besides baseball, softball and track.”
Bodiford was one of the leaders of a Lady Pelican squad that was a year removed from a share of the district title. It was a team that sported a ton of new faces under first-year head coach Staci Rodriguez.
The senior flashed her versatility during the season, playing in the outfield, behind the plate, at shortstop and at third base.
Bodiford said she has used most of her downtime to focus on improving areas of her game as she pursues an opportunity to play softball at the next level.
Despite the strides Rodriguez said her team made in the nine games played this season, Bodiford felt like her final season was a wash for her, but she said the future is bright for her teammates.
“I feel like nothing really came out of this season,” she said. “Next year Port Allen softball will go places. I just want to let them know I’ll be in the stands. I want to come in and help the girls.”
Bradford lit the Class 3A playoffs on fire with two impressive performances, but because of that, her softball season was limited to less than five games.
After earning the walk-off hit to clinch the state championship for the Lady Panthers in 2019, Bradford looked to build on that as the team looked to defend its title in 2020.
“I was hurt by the situation but then I looked back on junior year and getting the last hit,” she said. “It (pandemic) put a dent on senior year, but when you accomplish what we accomplished, you’ve done everything that a softball player wants to accomplish.”
Bradford recently committed to play basketball at BRCC and she admitted that her inability to play softball in her senior year pushed her to choose basketball instead.
The idea of not having a prom and possibly a delayed graduation ceremony has Bradford and other seniors wishing their senior class could be like the others, although they realize it isn’t anyone’s fault.
“It’s not a good feeling,” she said. “You get to high school and you wait four years for those senior moments and to not get them is tough. We wanted to be like everybody else.”
Olinde and the Pelicans were making noise to start the season, vastly improved from a year ago.
“It was hard,” Olinde said of the season’s cancelation. “We had a 9-2 season and were No. 11 in the state. We were likely on our way to hosting a playoff game for the first time in a while and for that to get snatched away was heartbreaking.”
Olinde said pandemic will impact a ton of seniors who rely on the prep season to get noticed and don’t have the luxury of playing travel ball. He said he still has an opportunity to play for coaches and scouts because he will be part of a travel ball program
Even though the trio is seniors, there is still academic work that needs to be done. Olinde said there is a big difference between completing his schoolwork online the last two months of his high school career compared to the other three and a half years on campus.
“It’s a lot of stress and a lot of work,” he said. “It’s not the same atmosphere. It’s more time-consuming.”
When Olinde isn’t training or doing schoolwork, he is tending to the business he owns “Island Boyz Lawn Service” or helping out at his dad’s construction company.
Port Allen played its final game, which was a 14-0 win over Independence, a day before the governor ordered schools to close.
“That’s memories that you’re losing,” Olinde said. “You wait four years for prom, a senior trip and to walk across that stage. That’s most of the memories that you make in high school.”
Regardless, Olinde said he approached the game the same way every time he took the field for Port Allen.
“I played every game as if it was my last,” he said. “To lace my cleats up, tape my wrist, put that glove on and wear that uniform was a privilege to me.”