WHEELERSBURG — Paige Emnett admitted her emotions ran the entire gauntlet for hours.
But in the end, Emnett, her fellow Findlay Oiler track and field teammates, and actually all 2020 NCAA Division II spring sports student-athletes are indeed relieved.
That’s because Emnett, a freshman thrower for Findlay and former Wheelersburg High School standout, is going to have four full seasons of athletic eligibility remaining for her outdoor track and field career — thanks to the NCAA recently granting its Division II athletes another year of spring eligibility, due to the cancellation of all spring sports this season.
That cancellation, of course, was due to the threat of the novel yet lethal coronavirus, as the NCAA —on March 12 — canceled all of its remaining winter and spring sports championships, followed by the Great Midwest Athletic Conference calling off all of its spring sports the following day.
The Oilers were amid their second day of competition at the NCAA Division II Indoor Track and Field Championship in Geneva when all activities were halted.
Findlay is a member of the GMAC, as a two-sentence conference statement simply read “On Friday, March 13, the Great Midwest Athletic Conference (GMAC), in cooperation with its member institutions, announced the cancellation of all spring athletic competition as well as all Great Midwest Athletic Conference Championships, effective immediately. This cancellation comes as a result of growing concerns surrounding the COVID-19 virus, more commonly known as the coronavirus.”
But what a difference a couple of days, and exactly one week, made.
A week later, the NCAA’s Division II Administrative Committee announced that “spring sports athletes at the Division II level would get an extra year of eligibility if they were set to be seniors in 2020.”
In between the cancellation and the ensuing eligibility announcement, Emnett — last season’s OHSAA state champion in the Division III girls discus throw and runner-up in the shot put — and her teammates took it upon themselves to start training for next season.
“Everything happened so quickly that I did not have time to react in the moment. It seemed like every couple of hours there was a new update concerning our spring track season. After the NCAA cancelled all spring sports, our track team had a very emotional meeting. At the time, we were confused, angry and sad. My teammates and I had trained all year for competitions and then our outdoor season got cancelled. The anger and frustration was not at anyone or the NCAA. It was just at our circumstances. But we had a choice that day. We could decide to start training for next year or we could roll over in defeat. I’m proud to say that we chose to start preparing for next year and to control only what we can control,” she said. “This situation is so much bigger than our athletic career and so much bigger than our track team. We had to take a step back and control what was right in front of us, which was how we were going to train for next year. I am blessed to live in a nation where the government is doing everything possible to keep us safe and to stop the virus from spreading.”
Emnett was preparing for her initial outdoor season for Findlay, but only got to practice for a few weeks prior to the cancellation.
She was coming off her first winter (indoor) season, of now three remaining, in which she regularly competed in the shot put and weight throw.
At the GMAC Indoor Championships, she placed sixth in the shot put with a heave of 13.57 meters and earned three team points —and finished ninth in the weight throw.
Her weight throw was a distance of 15.57 meters, as the eighth-place and final scoring spot (one point) sported a toss of 15.94.
While at Wheelersburg, she was a two-time OHSAA state meet qualifier for both the Division III shot and disc — as her 139-foot discus throw captured last season’s state title.
She almost made it a sweep of the throws, recording a best toss of 43-feet, two and one-half inches in the shot put —and was runner-up to champion Lauren Christian of Covington (44-7 1/2).
A year earlier as a junior, Emnett placed sixth in the state shot at 40-feet and two inches and earned all-Ohio honors —and was 16th out of 16 qualifers in the discus with a best throw of 105-and-a-half feet.
Hence, hats off to her — a Special Education major who plans to become an intervention specialist — for a last-to-first finish over the course of two state meets.
As for what’s next, Emnett admitted “athletes have to find a way to work out and stay in shape while also being safe during this time.”
“This is not the ideal circumstance for any athlete because all of the gyms and training facilities are closed. I have taken this time to run and to work out with my family. Our neighbors have a gym in their garage and they generously let our family use it. Although this situation is very heartbreaking and tough, my family is taking the time to grow stronger both mentally and physically,” she said. “I know that my teammates are also finding ways to train during this time and to be prepared for next year.”
First up, there is another indoor season spanning 2020 into 2021.
Then, hopefully, there is another outdoor season next spring —where Emnett not need run the gauntlet of emotions.
“Looking forward, we are preparing for the next indoor season. In the fall, we will begin conditioning and then move into practice. I hope and pray that we can all stay safe during this time and take the precautionary measures to keep the virus from spreading. Again, this is not ideal and at first, the decision to cancel spring sports caused anger and frustration, but looking back I think it was for the best,” she said. “I can’t wait to be back on campus with my teammates next year and to begin training and competing again. I know my team is going to come back better than we were before.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved