San Juan County athletics personnel dealing with reality of COVID-19 pandemic

Matt Hollinshead, mhollinshead@daily-times.com

FARMINGTON — The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic presented a grim reality for San Juan County's sports scene: There will be none for the foreseeable future.

Schools, golf courses and other athletic facilities remain closed indefinitely as a direct result of COVID-19.

It was normal, exciting times before March 11, when everything began to unravel. The state basketball championships and spring sports campaigns were underway. Soon, the majority of the state basketball tournament was reduced to fans being barred and a limited number of media members being allowed in for the state semifinals and finals.

After announcing that spring sports would be postponed through the rest of March, the New Mexico Activities Association dropped its next bombshell on March 27: No more spring sports for 2020.

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“I was at the state (basketball) tournament when all this started to transpire,” Central Consolidated Schools Athletic Director Ben Tensay said. “I just felt for our kids. Could you imagine? This is your last year playing high school ball… I feel for them. It’s been hard to swallow and process.”

It all happened so fast, just like the disease currently ravaging countries throughout the globe.

“It’s not an easy pill to swallow… It’s kind of their last shot to prove themselves in high school,” Farmington track and football coach Jeff Dalton said. “It’s impossible to not think about things like that. We’re heartbroken for (the) seniors. This is a bump in the road in their life.”

Piñon Hills Golf Course in Farmington, the main entrance pictured here on Wednesday, April 1, 2020, remains closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The unknowns

Teams' off-season training camps are in limbo, and the soonest full season one may be able to step foot onto the field or court will be in the fall. And that's no guarantee.

"You've got to be optimistic," Piedra Vista boys golf coach Tom Yost said. "All the kids, they're just antsy waiting for the golf courses to open back up. It's tough when you're locked inside your house... The unknown is scary."

Others are reading:Coronavirus closures: New Mexico public schools shuttered for remainder of the school year

Tensay said he's planning as though fall sports scheduling will go on as normal, but he's also preparing for the alternative.

“I’ve watched more news than I ever have… It doesn’t look good. I am very nervous about it, not knowing what the plan is,” Tensay said.

The 'new normal'

Yost said his team is using online training workouts to fine-tune their swings. Yost said PV and the golf community in general will be provided a more comprehensive online golf training platform in the coming days.

"This might be the new normal," Yost said. "Every crisis presents an opportunity. Whatever timeline's given to them (to resume play), they'll be ready."

Dalton said FHS is doing video conferences with football players to prepare for the 2020 campaign.

“They know the drills we work on. They know how to work on footwork, work on strength,” Dalton said.

Maintaining optimism

Dalton said the Scorpions will prepare as though there's a chance of playing a full 2020 campaign.

“If we don’t do that, we’re not going to be ready. We’re not going to speculate. We don’t want to be caught on our heels. We’re not going to speculate about the what-ifs,” Dalton said. “Hopefully, we’re not being too naive.”

Tensay said he’s having weekly video conferences with coaches about schedules, athlete workouts, maintaining athlete contacts and making sure everything’s carrying on.

Keep reading:New Mexico Activities Association cancels remainder of the 2020 spring sports campaign

“You always hope for the best,” Tensay said, adding that CCSD's fall schedules are currently 95 percent completed.

Tensay said he'd prefer a late start to fall sports over no fall sports, even if it means waiting until October.

“We’ll take anything,” Tensay said.

Silver linings

Tensay said the majority of CCSD's athletes participate in multiple sports, which could pay dividends in the event that sports don't resume again until this winter.

Tensay said one such scenario is that if someone competes in both football and wrestling, that person can apply that spare time in the fall toward extra training on the wrestling mat.

“At least the opportunity is there,” Tensay said. “This is a perfect opportunity to be multi-sport… They have something they can look forward to.”

Matt Hollinshead covers sports for the Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4577 and on Twitter at @MattH_717.

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