Athletics: Disappointment a common feeling for prep athletes

The Brainerd Warriors softball team celebrates during a 2019 game. Thursday it was announced the 2020 season would be canceled due to COVID-19. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Claire Ceynowa said walking on to the softball field with Brainerd Warriors on her uniform and her teammates next to her one more time is what she’ll miss the most.

Ceynowa isn’t alone as Minnesota student-athletes learned Thursday, April 23, the entire spring high school sports season was canceled because of COVID-19.

“Honestly, it was a little bit expected, you could say, but that doesn’t make it any easier at all,” Ceynowa said. “It was really hard to wrap my head around the fact that I’m not going to step on that field again as a Warrior. Playing in the program for five years, ever since eighth grade, it’s just really weird to think about. Every year, it felt like I was coming back and coming back and this would never end. To actually have the day come, you’re not going to step on the field again, was really weird to think about on top of my senior year ending. It was just really hard.”

Ceynowa, a senior softball player at Brainerd, spent Thursday calling her teammates and making sure they were OK. She said everyone was struggling.


Fellow Warrior senior Cody Evans said he was prepared for the day. He said he made peace with the loss of the season awhile ago.

Evans skipped his senior season of swimming and diving to focus on golf.

“I missed swimming and hanging out with the guys and the competitiveness of the season,” Evans said. “I think state would have been in play with swimming this year, too, so that would have been a chance to get to at least one state tournament, but I guess I don’t have any regrets. I’m happy I was able to work on my golf game. I’m fortunate enough to be able to play after the high school season, so it’s not the end of the line for me.”

Evans had already committed to play golf next season at St. John’s University in Collegeville. He said that coupled with the devastation of the virus helped him put things in perspective.

“I can just say I’m lucky,” Evans said. “I got close with the coach right away. He wasn’t looking for a good season from me to make sure I was the one. I was lucky enough to already be in the program and this season would have been just a fun one to have with the guys. I’m sad that won’t happen, but there are worse things going on in the world right now. I’m fortunate that no one in my family is sick and none of my friends are sick either.”

Ceynowa was poised to add to her school records in career home runs and improve on her single-season home run record. More important was her chase to catch her father’s family record of 26 home runs. Ceynowa was eight shy of her dad Chris’ 26.

“I didn’t have as well of a season as I would have liked to, my junior year,” Ceynowa said. “I was really working hard this offseason to make sure that my senior season was different for me and different for my team. I was looking at how I could be a better leader and captain. So not only just my personal records, but also hoping that my team could have the best season possible and end with a bang. I was working really hard to make sure this season was really big and a good way to go out.”

One positive in Cenoywa’s situation was she already signed her NCAA National Letter of Intent to play college softball at the University of Minnesota. But even that has caused some stress as Gopher head coach Jamie Trachsel left the program to coach at Ole Miss next season.


Cenoywa said the news was shocking, but chose to focus on the hardships of her younger student-athletes.

“There is a lot that is up in the air for the underclassmen right now, especially if they want to play college ball,” Ceynowa said. “Between their wanting to play their high school season and their summer seasons, whether they are on or not. That’s when you get recruited and now they’re not going to have that opportunity.

“I’m just very thankful that I’m in the position I’m in. I’m already signed and my scholarship is already set and I have a place to go. I don’t have to really worry about still having to get recruited. I’m very thankful for the opportunity I had to sign with the U.”

One athlete hoping to have a break out spring to attract the attention of college coaches was Brainerd senior Connor Powers. The track and field athlete has offers to play basketball, but was hoping to jump in college.

“I’m still undecided as of yet,” Powers said. “I have a couple of options for basketball and I have an option to walk on for track at South Dakota State. I’m evaluating my options at the moment and seeing where I fit best. I’m doing some virtual visits to all the college that I’m looking at. I’ll have to evaluate pretty soon on where I’m going.”

Powers said he figured the season would get canceled because of the virus. He wasn’t surprised, but disappointed.

“Most of the work I did in the offseason was mainly toward track,” Powers said. “It helped out in basketball, obviously, but it was mainly to get my distances better and heights higher. It’s a little disappointing, but hopefully, if I make a decision to go for track next year, I can showcase what I worked on my freshman year in college.”

Powers said the loss of the spring season and the rest of his senior year is hard to process.


Sam Sadlowsky was on the 15th fairway of Cuyuna Rolling Hills when he heard the season was canceled.

“It was certainly disappointing,” Sadlowsky said. “Through all this hope and talk about extending the season, it was just a real bummer. I was really looking forward to the season with Crosby-Ironton/Aitkin now. Unfortunately, that can’t happen. I’m hopeful we can still do stuff in the area that’s golf-specific and have some fun.”

The Aitkin senior just missed advancing to the Class 2A state golf tournament last season. The pairing with Crosby-Ironton, which finished second as a team last season, added to the high expectations.

“It’s tough because you’re expecting a season,” Sadlowsky said. “This is our last hurrah in high school. I’m hopefully going to play golf in college next season, but it’s tough because you expect it and you work toward it for so long and then it just doesn’t happen. I don’t think it’s sunk in yet.”

The Minnesota State High School League announcement not only canceled athletics, but fine arts as well. Sadlowsky said the whole situation is not fun.

“Music-wise you’re looking to collaborate with others, especially in choir and band and that’s what we are missing now,” Sadlowsky said. “I can do stuff on my own, certainly, The big kicker was “The Music Man.” It’s Aitkin’s 51st musical production. We’re not sure if that’s going to happen.”

From an underclassmen’s perspective, Staples-Motley junior Beck Erholtz felt for his senior competitors.

“It was kind of expected,” he said. “Obviously, saddening. I have a lot of great friends, especially in Crosby, and I know they had their hearts crushed for this season. I know they had a great team with Aitkin joining forces with them. We had a couple of seniors back home that didn’t get to play their senior season.


“For me, I know I’m lucky to have another year and get another chance at state and hopefully make the best of it next year.”

Erholtz, a member of the Cardinals boys golf team, has been playing with former Cardinals and North Dakota State University senior Andrew Israelson, who had his golf season canceled a month earlier. He said just trying to find competition in a safe way to improve their games is the biggest goal right now.

“We’ve been talking about how we’re going to compete against other people in order to get better without having that competition being there,” Erholtz said. “It’s been different. You’re training differently. It’s obviously individualized because you can’t see or be around the people you normally see this time of year.”

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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