The COVID-19 pandemic has affected few coaches in a more dramatic and disappointing fashion than Blue Springs High School’s Joe Cusack.
The track and field head coach – whose Wildcats team brought home state hardware in seven consecutive seasons, including state titles in 2014, 2015 and 2017 – saw the coronavirus not only take away a promising 2020 track season, it robbed the high school’s girls basketball team of a state final four appearance.
“I’m an assistant coach on our girls basketball team, and I’ve never seen a team peak at a better time of the season than our girls did this year,” Cusack said by phone Wednesday.
“We had those dramatic wins over Lee’s Summit West – a team that beat us twice in the regular season – and (undefeated) Liberty, and we were primed and ready to go to the final four when the coronavirus quarantine shut down everything.
“I tell you, my heart ached for our girls. They had worked so hard all season and we were the underdogs basically every time we stepped out on the court in the postseason, and they found a win to win.
“Now, all we have are memories of a great season and the sense of wondering what might have been had it not been for the quarantine.”
Cusack said he and head coach Mark Spigarelli and varsity assistant Roger Lower were crossing their fingers in hopes of some type of amended final four.
“We heard it might be moved back, they might play it like they did the quarterfinal game with just 30 fans in the stands, but it never happened,” Cusack said. “It’s the seniors on that team, and all the seniors on our track and field team, I feel the worst for. It’s some small condolence to the girls that they had a great season, with a disappointing ending, but the guys will never know what might have happened this season and that’s tough.”
Cusack initially reached out to all 131 members of his boys track and field team to let them know about his disappointment – and to tell them that he would always be there for them, even if it was by email, other forms of social media or by phone.
“I think we had a good shot at getting back to the podium at state because we had one of the deepest groups of runners on our relay events since I’ve been here,” he said. “The 4-by-100, 4-by-200 and 4-by-400 were strong – really strong – and we have some guys who were strong in those individual distance events.
“But now, I’m just keeping it low key. I don’t want to keep calling and reminding them of what we’re all missing out on. I’ve seen some tweets where coaches are showing their own photos from their senior years, and that seems like rubbing salt in the wound to me. If I just lost my senior year, I don’t want to see someone all smiling and happy because they got to compete in their senior year.”
So what does a coach known for his boundless supply of energy do with all this free time on his hands?
“You can only watch so much ‘Better Call Saul,’ and ‘Breaking Bad,’ and all the other stuff on Netflix,” he said. “I’ve been looking at the weather, and I don’t think we would have had a meet postponed or even had a meet when it was cold because the weather has been so great.
“We would have been at Kirkwood (Mo.) last weekend and we were scheduled to compete at Ladue (Mo.) this upcoming weekend, and I get up every day and think, ‘Man, this would be a great day for a meet.’
“But you know what? I’m right now I’m hoping we get football in next fall and basketball in next winter. I don’t think anyone really knows what’s going to happen with this stuff – it’s all like a bad movie, and I want it to end.”