2020 was a year unlike any other

By Steve Sell
December 30, 2020

I’ve been on this earth for nearly 64 years and this is a year I thought we’d never experience.

There had been warnings a few years ago about a possible pandemic, but I always dismissed that possibility. Because of advancements in science and medicine and so many brilliant people in this world, I thought pandemics had become extinct.

But it hit home during the Kansas State Basketball Tournaments.

After McPherson High had won its opening-round game at Emporia, word of a novel “coronavirus” began to sweep across the White Auditorium like an out-of-control wildfire. The state immediately shut down the rest of the tournament, as well as Little River’s 1A semifinal game. Schools went remote soon after. Spring sports were cancelled. Summer sports were a fraction of what they normally were.

By the time the fall rolled around, there was trepidation whether we would have a sporting season. But with reduced fans or fans not at all at some events, we somehow managed to crown champions in every sport.

Winter sports are under way and fortunately McPherson High teams have been able to get nearly all of their events in, the one exception being the girls basketball team having its opener postponed, only to play it shortly after. Both Bullpup teams were able to play six games before the break, with just one game played before no fans.

The wrestling and swimming teams have been able to get their events in and with continued caution, we’ll proceed as scheduled.

McPherson College and Central Christian College haven’t been as fortunate. Mac College was able to get in seven football games before the season was shut down and the other sports played half a schedule. Then in basketball, both Bulldog teams have played just more than half of their scheduled games. Both had long stretches where they were sidelined.

It’s been much tougher at Central Christian, especially in basketball. The Tiger women were able to get games in early, but then were shut down after five. The CCC men have played only four. The Sooner Athletic Conference as a whole has had its conference schedule decimated.

Again, the presumption is we’ll play games when we can. There will be bumps in the road and games will be postponed and then, hopefully, made up.

I fully expect the spring season to be played for both high school and college. Maybe by April, when the brunt of the season takes place, enough vaccines will have been given to make things safer, though it’s disappointing to see the early returns of the rollout. It was thought that 20 million people would be vaccinated by the end of the year, but just more than 2 million have been given. Let’s hope the kinks get worked out and there are at least a million a day in the country as has been hoped.

Despite the dark cloud hanging over, there were a few highlights in 2020. McPherson High’s Landon Frantz became the fourth Bullpup state wrestling champion in as many years, following Austin Eldredge, Rhett Edmonson and Scott Radke. Wrestling was able to get its season in under the wire.

The McPherson High boys swimming team had the best season in school history as it took second with minimal squad numbers. William Powers won the first two individual gold medals in school history. He also combined with Justus Hampton, Rhys Vanderhoof and Matthew Powers to win a gold in a relay.

The MHS football team again thrilled fans by making it to the state semifinals for the fourth year in a row and this time appeared headed for the finals as it led Arkansas City 27-14 in the third quarter. But the Bulldogs came back to win 28-27 and MHS again was disappointed after having such a great 10-2 season.

The Little River boys won the 8-Man Division I state title by defeating Wichita County-Leoti, a year after Canton-Galva had won it. The Eagles had been No. 1 all season until losing to Madison in the quarters. The Inman football team made the 1A semis before losing to Oakley.

MHS’ volleyball team returned to the Final Four and took fourth place, while it was another good year for MHS girls tennis, boys soccer and both cross country teams. The MHS girl harriers qualified as a team, ending a more than 10-year drought of getting everyone in.

Smoky Valley’s boys cross country team took second in Class 3A, led by third-place finisher Ryan Heline. Canton-Galva’s Morgan Becker and Christian Darran were individual state medalists, as was Smoky Valley’s Gracie Lambert.

So, there was some good to come out of a forgettable year. Let’s put this behind us and hope we can get back to some semblance of normalcy in 2021.