A change of season

COVID-19 throws a curveball

There was so much still happening in Wheaton athletics at the onset of the impact of COVID-19. For starters, members of three winter teams were preparing to compete at their respective national championship meets.

Women’s swim team members Lydia DaCorte ’21, Madeline Eller ’23, Chloe Deubner ’21 and Hope Campbell ’23 each qualified for NCAA championships, but the meet was canceled. Margaret Walker ’22 qualified for NCAA championships in the 60-meter dash and made the trip to the championship meet in North Carolina, only to have it canceled the day before her event. The synchronized swimming team members won their regional championship but, they, too, were unable to go to Arizona for nationals, as the competition was canceled.

The spring sports also were off to a great start. Wheaton baseball was ranked No. 21 in the nation after getting off to a 7–1 start. Women’s lacrosse was 4–1 at the start of the season and men’s lacrosse was 4–2. Men’s and women’s tennis and softball teams were in California and Florida, respectively, building chemistry on their spring break trips. Wheaton’s outdoor track and field teams had several members who had been All-Region, All-New England and All-Conference during the fall and winter seasons; they were poised for a breakout spring season.

We didn’t get to see any of those seasons complete properly, and I wish there would have been a way for those athletes and coaches to finish what they started. They all worked so hard in preparing to represent Wheaton and make our community proud.

Many aspects of dealing with COVID-19 can provide a lesson into what it means to be a student-athlete. Being a student-athlete requires excelling at skills, including time management and accountability, problem-solving and rising to the occasion in big moments. Every student-athlete, and, really everybody at Wheaton, simultaneously learned the same lessons this spring.

We all learned that being nimble means more now than it ever has before. A perfect plan is only as good as its execution; and this spring took away every plan in an instant. The ability to shift on the fly, work together and problem-solve in real time is what sports are all about. Our athletes will utilize this experience often when they return to competition, as well as in the years to come.

Overall, players, coaches and staff dealt with the loss of the season with incredible class. We all felt various stages of denial, sadness, anger, loss and isolation. We also experienced various levels of gratefulness, perseverance, grit, commitment and hope.

This has been a life-changing event and one that Wheaton has handled with grace and determination.

—By Gavin Viano, Wheaton director of athletics and recreation