PORTSMOUTH — Jacob Brickey aimed to break the Valley High School shot put record.
Faith Malone of Minford made it a goal to qualify for the regional.
Eric Purdy of Portsmouth planned on a redemption season with his Trojan teammates.
And Alyssa Dingus of Wheelersburg was prepping for a third and final trip to the state track and field meet.
In any other ordinary year, this indeed would have been the week of the regional meets throughout the Buckeye State, and the aforementioned foursome had high goals of competing for two days at either Fairfield Union (Division III) or Muskingum University (Division II) —with the dream of punching a coveted state tournament ticket.
But, of course, 2020 has been anything but any other ordinary year.
And unfortunately, in response to the coronavirus threat, the 2020 track and field season —like all other Ohio High School Athletic Association spring sports seasons this year — was officially canceled on April 20.
That was after the OHSAA twice postponed those seasons.
Brickey, Malone, Purdy and Dingus were just a minuscule sampling of Scioto County’s track and field seniors — seniors who won’t get another opportunity to hear that gun go off or compete in front of a full house.
The quartet was posed questions about their senior seasons that never were —and what possibly those senior seasons could have been.
Beginning with the thrower Brickey, who competed in the shot put and discus, he was a returning state placer in the Division III boys shot —having scored seventh in last season’s meet.
He was also an indoor state meet placer in the same event in early March — placing seventh in that competition too.
He was indeed after the Valley school record in the shot put, which is 56-feet.
His goal was to throw 62-feet in the shot and 180-feet in the disc, as he was heaving 59 or 60 feet for the 12-pound shot — when he stopped throwing that following the cancellation.
“If I would have had my senior season, I felt like I would have won the state in shot put, and also make the state in discus. My original thought when they (OHSAA) first postponed it (season) was I’m just going to stay optimistic about the whole situation and maybe things will clear up soon. As soon as the season was canceled, my mind was just blown. I really didn’t know how to react to it. After all of the hard work I put in throughout the summer and winter, it just felt like it was going to waste,” he said. “It upset me a lot because everyone in my community was also cheering me on and wanting to see what I could do.”
A Walsh University signee, Brickey began throwing the 16-pound shot in getting ready for his college campaigns.
Malone, who late last week announced her intention to run track at Marietta College, moved on in her training for the next level as well.
She ran sprints and sprint relays while at Minford, but was working on more mid-distance events as a senior, including the 400m dash and the 800m run.
While Malone wanted to run in the regionals, Purdy placed an emphasis on Ohio Valley Conference competition — and the Trojans’ chance for their first-ever OVC title in any sport.
Portsmouth has been a member of the OVC since the 2015-16 academic year.
Along with the long jump, Purdy ran the distance relays (4x800m and 4x400m) — and planned to run the 4x200m relay this spring.
“This season was honestly all about redemption and improvement. After losing the conference by a measly eight points last year, we were all really excited to get back out on the track and bring Portsmouth its first outright OVC championship. We figured we were up to the occasion. I think we definitely would’ve all improved dramatically from last year, because we were willing to put in the work to get there. My goals were to first and foremost win the conference and second to jump 21-feet (long jump),” he said.
But Purdy and the Trojans never got that championship shot, as he said the finality of the situation started to sink in.
“At first, I underestimated the severity of this (coronavirus) pandemic and the precautions that the state and the OHSAA would take to prevent the spread of this disease, so me being the fairly optimistic person that I am, I thought that we would at least have a partial track season. After the season was canceled, reality hit me that my high school days were basically over and that I could no longer run with the people I’ve considered family the past four years,” he said. “Running and competing for Portsmouth has been an absolute dream. Running with the people that I’ve grown up with and being able to compete with any team we go against was what made running for Portsmouth so special to me.”
Speaking of sprints and relays, Dingus did just those at Wheelersburg —running the 4x200m and 4x400m relays and the 200m and 400m dashes.
Sometimes she did the 100m dash or the distance relay (4x4800m), and was a two-time Division III state meet qualifier as a sophomore and junior.
As a sophomore (2018), she ran the 4x400m with Wheelersburg graduate and standout Ellie Ruby, and fellow 2020 seniors Gabby Deacon and Lani Irwin.
As a junior (2019), she ran the 4x200m with the graduated Libby Miller, junior Lauren Jolly, and Irwin —and qualified for the 400m on her own.
In the regional 400 finals, Dingus tied Rebecca Barnett’s school record of 59.9 seconds, which Barnett set back in 1993.
As part of three Southern Ohio Conference championships and one Southeast District team title, the Lady Pirates broke a 37-year-old SOC record and the Wheelersburg school mark since 1984 in the 4x200m — with a time of a minute and 47 seconds.
With sights set on state again, her individual and team goals were for those same two records to fall again this season.
“I feel like our season this year would have been a successful one. I would have loved the opportunity to add to our titles and maybe a state title. We are a very determined, driven team and individuals,” said Dingus. “We really wanted to come out strong this year, win more titles, break some more records and take as many of us as possible to the state competition.”
Unfortunately, all of those goals never got a chance.
“Initially when spring sports were postponed, I felt disappointed but hopeful that they would start again, determined to push myself and team to succeed, to meet my personal and team goals when the time came to compete again. I continued to train, run and do my sprint workouts on my own. Then with the second postponement, I still hung on to some hope that we could still have a season even just for a few weeks, but at the same time I had fear and disappointment that it was looking bleak for my senior season, my last time with my team and coaches. I still continued to run and work out. Then when they cancelled the season, it felt like I couldn’t breathe, like someone had just punched me in the stomach and took my breath. I felt so many emotions: heartbroken, sad, pure disappointment,” she said. “As seniors, so much has been stripped away that most will never have the opportunity to do again. I am thankful that I still have the chance to compete and run again. Everyone says senior year is the best, embrace it, do all you can, make memories. Senior year is a right of passage. We lost memories and closure for a lot of things that are a very important chapter in our lives. At the same time, we had to move on and try to plan for the next chapter. I hope no senior class has to ever again experience the loss we have as the class of 2020. It is something you cannot explain or understand until you have to live it. It feels like such a huge loss and you just can’t help but cry at the lost opportunity, memories and overall experience.”
But still, Dingus doesn’t have any regrets on what she and her Lady Pirate teammates accomplished their first three springs.
In fact, she said “I will be around next year to cheer on and support the team and coaches.”
“I am grateful that I made it to the state competition twice as an individual and part of a team. Some athletes never get the opportunity to get there and I did twice. So for that opportunity, I am blessed. I was able to share it with the best teammates, coaches, family and friends to support and push me,” said Dingus. “I am excited to see what they accomplish next season. I want to wish them luck, and to my fellow seniors, I can’t wait to see what all you do and accomplish.”
It’s just a shame that the 2020 seniors never got that opportunity on the track or in the field.
Malone, perhaps, although speaking directly for herself spoke indirectly on behalf of her entire class.
“I was really counting on a good senior season. I was working harder than I ever have for this season, really hoping it would be the best season I’ve ever had,” she said. “When they told us the season was delayed, I still trained on my own, worked hard on my open events, still kept hope we would come back to school and come back and have a track season. It was very heartbreaking that I didn’t get an opportunity this year to do what I wanted to do and achieve what I wanted to achieve.”
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved