MADEIRA, Ohio — Madeira senior track runner Dylan Whitson still has the handful of heartfelt text messages his younger teammates sent early last week after the spring sports season was canceled.
"I don't delete texts like that," Whitson said.
In the texts, the underclassmen explained how much they looked up to seniors like him and appreciated the time the teammates spent together.
"They know how much I pour my heart and soul into running," Whitson said. "I hope they look up to me like that. I am sure that was the first thing they thought of when they heard the news — how the seniors were going to handle it, especially the 4-by-8 (relay team) because we work really hard."
A week has passed since the Ohio High School Athletic Association canceled the spring sports season in the wake of Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine's decision to keep schools closed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The sting of lost opportunities for competition and making memories hasn't eased yet for spring sports coaches and student-athletes around the state.
"The (seniors) put it pretty nicely when they said, 'Don't take it for granted,'" said Madeira track and field/cross country coach Josh Dooley. "The track and cross country teams are so close — even the juniors, seniors and the freshmen. All those younger kids were texting the seniors saying, 'Sorry.'"
Dooley's voice trailed off, gripped by emotion.
"They put so much work into this, I can't even tell you," Dooley said.
For Whitson, Ben Ramos, Diego Arredondo and Ben Cunningham — all seniors on the 3,200-meter relay team that finished eighth in the Division II state meet in 2019 — all is not lost just yet.
The relay team hopes to compete in Amateur Athletic Union competition in June if the opportunity is allowed, in pursuit of a qualifying mark for the New Balance national outdoor meet in late July.
"As seniors, we really want to have an opportunity at one point in time to compete one more time," Ramos said.
The day the OHSAA announced the cancellation of the spring sports season, Ramos sat in his room trying to process the news.
"I didn't really know what to do," Ramos said. "I still had schoolwork to do, but I didn't do any of my schoolwork the rest of the day because I couldn't even think about doing stuff like that. I cried with my mom, and it was really sad."
Whitson, who also competes in the 1,600-meter run, hopes to walk on at Ohio State next school year. He plans to continue intense workouts twice a day, three times a week, until an AAU opportunity arises with his teammates.
"Although it's not what we planned, it gives us something to wake up and do every day, which I think is very important," Whitson said.
Each member of the relay has over a 4.0 grade-point average and participates in fall sports. In addition to track and field, they also missed all the spring activities leading up to graduation. Some of those moments are gone forever.
Dooley says the relay team is simply eager for an opportunity to create a memorable finish to their high school careers.
"They're upset, they're hungry," Dooley said. "That helps all fuel everything for them. It's just that this is their last saving grace. They are all disappointed."