Kalynn Meyer

Superior's Kalynn Meyer competes in the Class C discus. The cancellation of spring sports means that Meyer won't have the opportunity to set a discus state record.

Kalynn Meyer lost the chance to break the state record in the discus.

Luke Gutschewski can’t become a three-time golf champion.

The seniors on the Millard West and Bennington baseball teams lost their opportunity for back-to-back state championships after helping their schools win in 2019 for the first time.

On and on it goes.

There will be no spring sports in Nebraska high schools. In shutting down a nation, COVID-19 has topped the effects of world wars, financial depressions and an even deadlier Spanish flu pandemic from 1918-20 when it came to our high school sports.

Seniors especially are stung. For most, they won’t be on a sports team again. It adds to the disappointment of no prom, no senior-only events and a graduation ceremony that might be delayed until summer or require video conferencing.

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In the coming weeks, look for stories on some of our state’s athletes — primarily seniors — who have lost their spring seasons. What are they experiencing? What did they lose? What lies ahead?

To look forward you also have to look back.

The first two from me will be on Meyer, the two-time Nebraska girls athlete of the year from Superior, and Gutschewski, last year’s Class B golf champion from Elkhorn Mount Michael.

Both are disappointed. Why not? But they are aware of the world outside the throws rings or putting greens, and seem to be handling the hand we’ve been dealt better than some adults.

“Keep your head up,” is Meyer’s message to her fellow seniors. “We’re all going through the same thing. It hopefully will get better. We just can’t really see the light now, but eventually we’ll get there and we’ll all be OK.”

Readers have asked whether the state ever lost a season in high school sports to outside forces. Until now, no.

In 1918, high school football pushed on through the Spanish flu and the end of World War I when Nebraska scrambled to get in games and Creighton University got in three. Missouri played one.

Lincoln High won the state championship. Omaha South won three of four games, Omaha Central two of six. Central had three games called off while the Omaha schools were closed for a month extending into November.

The boys basketball state tournament was delayed one week in 1933 by a national bank holiday during the depths of the Great Depression.

In 1937, a fall polio outbreak caused Omaha to delay opening schools until October and shortened the high school football season. Benson went 4-1, Central 5-1-1.

State competition went on during World War II. Gas rationing caused the NSAA to cut the 1943 boys basketball tournament in half, to two classes and 16 teams. The previous season’s Class A and B were combined and Class C and D came together. Lincoln High won Class A and Humphrey St. Francis (a Class C school in 1942) won Class B.

The Sept. 11 attacks of 2001 affected college and pro football for obvious travel reasons, but high schools played on here. Millard West beat Omaha Creighton Prep 21-7 in the first local game played — two days afterward — since schools remained in session.

So here we are, no track meets, baseball games, soccer matches or golf and tennis tournaments. How strange will it be to drive past Burke Stadium on West Dodge Road with unwanted ease on what would have been state track Saturday?

We’re not able to tell all the stories of what could have been, but I’d welcome emails suggesting those in unique circumstances.

Unfortunately, there’s unlimited time this spring to think of those ideas.


Celebrating past All-Nebraska basketball teams

Reporter - High school sports

Stu is The World-Herald's lead writer for high school sports and for golf. Follow him on Twitter @stuOWH. Phone: 402-444-1041.

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