In the end this column is foolish as a result of I am telling you one thing you already know.
2020 was not like any 12 months — ever.
All of us who skilled it can always remember it.
It is left an indelible mark on each aspect of society, and that goes for sports activities, too.
What is the No. 1 story in Marion and its surrounding counties in terms of athletics?
Undoubtedly, it is the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout.
I will save the suspense. What would be the No. 1 story in Marion and its surrounding counties in terms of athletics on the finish of 2021?
Will probably be in regards to the affect COVID-19 has continued to make on sports activities as we hopefully get a deal with on it with vaccines, higher therapies and smarter administration of all the things — and I actually imply all the things — as we attempt to halt the unfold of the virus.
Merely put, the pandemic has wreaked havoc on sports activities from the professionals to T-ballers and all the things in-between. Marion wasn’t spared.
The truth is for a lot of April and a part of Might, Marion County was floor zero for COVID-19, not simply in Ohio, however nationally because the virus ran by means of Marion Correctional Establishment and fanned out exterior the gates by means of group unfold.
Mercifully that coincided with faculty shutdowns within the spring and the cancelling of sports activities for the remainder of the educational 12 months.
Due to the timing of the pandemic and its beginning to mushroom nationally in March, undefeated River Valley wrestler Hadyn Danals, plus 5 others from Nice have been denied probabilities to compete on the state meet, because the Ohio Excessive Faculty Athletic Affiliation postponed and later canceled its winter sports activities state tournaments for wrestling and basketball.
Exterior of some early season practices, spring sports activities athletes could not compete both. A 3-week delay ultimately became the season being scrapped across the state by the OHSAA.
Coming into 2020, Cardington softball and Mount Gilead monitor hoped for state championships. Marion Harding boys tennis featured certainly one of its finest and deepest groups in years. River Valley, Nice and North Union softball groups dreamt of lengthy match runs. Monitor athletes by no means obtained an opportunity to try for state meet glory. Baseball and softball gamers missed alternatives to earn all-league, all-district and All-Ohio honors. Younger, rebuilding packages misplaced out on a season of improvement.
Marion County youth baseball and softball leagues shuttered, too.
It proved to be a protracted, darkish spring for everybody.
Then in late Might, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reversed course and began to open up sports activities. The OHSAA allowed sports activities like soccer to do extremely regulated and socially distanced exercises with athletes coaching in pods of not more than 9 others. Weeks later groups may proceed to extra normalized observe and coaching regimens, however nonetheless below strict pointers and protocols.
Golf was deemed a sport that might maintain competitions as a result of lack of contact between opponents, so the Coronary heart of Ohio Junior Golf Affiliation summer time tour in addition to the Ohio Junior Ladies Championship contested yearly at Marion Nation Membership went ahead with alternations, but in addition with out incident.
The Marion Senior Softball Affiliation obtained again to taking part in in June as did youth touring groups in all sports activities.
In the course of the summer time, there was a switch of energy because the OHSAA Board of Administrators let go of government director Jerry Snodgrass, a former Ridgedale trainer and coach, and later employed Doug Ute, the previous principal and superintendent at Elgin.
Ute took over a corporation that was financially reeling after dropping its most worthwhile winter sports activities state tournaments in addition to all of its spring season. However extra vital than cash, Ute was charged with getting Ohio’s fall sports activities up and operating for the psychological and bodily well-being of athletes.
Extremely, regardless of a second wave in late summer time, fall seasons in golf, ladies tennis, cross nation, soccer, volleyball and soccer have been held to completion.
Nonetheless, there have been loads of challenges.
River Valley’s volleyball group superior to the districts regardless of lacking four-fifths of its senior class attributable to quarantine. The varsity’s soccer group performed a second-round playoffs recreation whereas lacking eight starters attributable to coronavirus precautions, which clearly affected the end result of the loss to Parma Heights Holy Identify.
RV’s ladies soccer group, which gained one other 10 matches this season, couldn’t play for a sectional title attributable to too many gamers being sidelined by contact tracing. Twice Mount Gilead’s soccer group was shut down attributable to an outbreak, taking part in simply 4 video games.
Video games and meets and matches have been held in entrance of crowds of not more than 15 % of seating capability, so the game-day setting was rather more muted for positive.
To have a greater probability of getting its soccer playoffs performed, the OHSAA restricted the common season to 6 video games earlier than then beginning the playoffs by inviting everybody who wished to take part into the postseason. As soon as eradicated, groups had the choice of taking part in extra video games with a max of 10 common season contests. Most space groups took benefit of these additional video games.
Nonetheless, one soccer group that didn’t was North Union. That is as a result of the Wildcats gained a college report three playoff video games this fall.
Like soccer, different sports activities discovered their conclusions, too. The cross nation state meet was held for the primary time in Fortress Obetz with Mount Gilead’s girls and boys inserting third and sixth respectively. The North Union volleyball group gained a first-ever district championship and went to the Candy 16 in Kettering. Nicole Flock grew to become the primary Marion Harding ladies tennis participant to advance to back-to-back districts in additional than 20 years.
Winter sports activities have been much less positive. Outbreaks and contract tracing has sidelined too many athletes, coaches and whole groups within the first month of motion to depend right here.
With basketball, wrestling, bowling and swimming all held inside and with the virus sweeping by means of the state at a price by no means seen earlier than, some central Ohio colleges and leagues opted to delay the beginning of winter season till December and into January.
Marion County’s 5 colleges in addition to the 5 others within the Star’s protection space have proceeded, however with additional limitations on attendance typically.
So the coronavirus pandemic and associated COVID-19 illness is with out query the No. 1 story of 2020.
But it surely’s not the one story.
It must be acknowledged that 2020 was additionally a 12 months of unrest. In addition to a political season that did extra to divide than unite, social injustice was delivered to the forefront of our consciousness.
The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Rayshard Brooks by legislation enforcement in addition to the loss of life of unarmed jogger Ahmaud Arbery sparked nationwide actions this summer time. Protests and marches have been held all around the nation, together with Marion, as African Individuals — and different teams — advised their harrowing tales of what it feels prefer to be a minority on this nation, revealing the ache that’s introduced by discrimination, prejudice and racism.
These are voices that should be heard, faces that should be seen and names that ought to by no means be forgotten.
We’ve got to be higher and now we have to do higher popping out of 2020.
That is true for a way we proceed to deal with the pandemic and true for a way we assist social justice causes.
2021 cannot get right here quickly sufficient.
Rob McCurdy is the sports activities author on the Marion Star and might be reached at email@example.com, 419-610-0998, Twitter @McMotorsport and Instagram @rob_mccurdy_star.