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Bill Althaus: Hoping last week means a return to normal soon

Staff Writer
The Examiner
The Examiner

I grabbed a lawn chair, made sure I had plenty of sunscreen and a hat and headed out to the door to actually cover a sporting event a week ago.

Thanks to the Independence School District and Superintendent Dale Herl, the three Independence high schools – Truman, Chrisman and Van Horn – were allowed to play baseball, golf, tennis, girls soccer and track and field as a way to make up for the loss of the spring season because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And when I settled in next to the William Chrisman dugout at the newly named Ross Family Field last Saturday, I was giddy with excitement.

As the pitchers were warming up for the first game, the superintendent sat down next to me and looked like a kid in a candy shop.

“I got up so early today,” Herl said, “all I could think about was this game and how our players, especially our seniors, were going to be able to put on their uniforms and represent their high schools one more time.”

Over the past week, I was there for six baseball games, a golf tournament, a tennis match and finally, the grand finale – a track and field meet at Chrisman.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen this many smiles,” Chrisman activities director Greg McGhee said, “and we’d probably see a lot more if everyone wasn’t wearing a mask.”

The masks were especially noticeable at the track and field meet, where everyone in the stands and all athletes who were not involved in an event wore protective gear.

“I’m so proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Chrisman track and field coach Tyler Rathke said, “because we’ve proved there can be sports during the pandemic. We did it. We played baseball – and soccer and tennis and golf. We had a track meet and everyone practiced social distancing and everyone had fun.

“I hope one day we can get back to normal, but if this is the new normal, I can live with it.”

So can I.

Before I covered that baseball doubleheader between the Falcons, Patriots and Bears, the last sporting event I wrote about was coach Mark Spigarelli’s Blue Springs High School girls basketball team’s 51-41 win over previously undefeated Liberty to earn a spot in the Class 5 state final four.

The high of that victory was followed the next day by the lowest of lows, as Spigarelli had to tell his team that the final four had been canceled because of the pandemic.

For more than three months, I have dealt with devastated high school and collegiate athletes who missed out on their final hurrah during the spring, and collegiate freshmen whose first taste of next-level sports would have to wait a year.

Their stories have been devastating, heartfelt, inspirational and mind boggling. But for one amazing week, I got to be a sports writer again, covering the kids, coaches and teams who have become as much a part of my life as oxygen.

While no one can provide a definitive answer, I’m hoping that Friday night under the lights will kick off a normal fall, students will be back in high school, and soon I’ll be at Cable Dahmer Arena watching the Kansas City Mavericks and Comets.

We’ll all get to marvel at Patrick Mahomes and the world champion Kansas City Chiefs and life, as we once knew it, will return to normal.

I don’t know about you, but I’m saying my prayers and keeping my fingers crossed.

How about you?

– Bill Althaus is a sports writer and columnist for The Examiner. Reach him at bill.althaus@examiner.net or 816-350-6333. Follow him on Twitter: @AlthausEJC