The day the dominos fell

Emily Perhats (TheLorian)

It was like dominos. No one thought much about it when Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert jokingly touched all the microphones at the end of the first socially distanced Utah Jazz press conference on March 9, 2020. But two days later the first domino fell when Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. Within hours, the second domino fell when the National Basketball Association became the first major league to suspend their entire season. Then it felt like all of the dominos started to quickly topple.

The decision to end the NCAA winter championships would come the following day. The Loras College track and field team had already arrived in North Carolina for the Division III indoor national championship.

“We knew some teams weren’t going to be coming,” said sophomore Alyssa Pfadenhaue, who was a first-year sprinter on the women’s team last spring. “We never thought it was going to be cancelled.”

Terianna Black, a 2020 senior was hoping to win another national track championship but the virus shut down that dream. Seniors were given the opportunity to return for a fifth year. Black, a sprinter and jumper, has taken advantage of that and hoped to get another shot at a title. But the NCAA has once again shut the championships down.

Like the virus, the devastating cancellation news would spread quickly. Women’s basketball was on one of their most successful playoff runs in Loras history. They were in Holland, Michigan practicing at Hope College, getting ready for the first round of the Sweet Sixteen. Coach Justin Heinzen pulled them into the center of the court and uttered two words: “It’s over.”

“All of us were speechless. No one knew what to say but then everyone started getting teary eyed,” junior guard Sydney Schuler recalled. “And then we just didn’t even know what to do.”

Schuler, who was a second year at the time, knew she had a couple more years to play. What was tough, she said, was looking at the seniors and realizing she would never play with them again. That was what hurt the most. The realization that they had played their last game without knowing it was their last game was just unfathomable.

“We just tried to keep our composure as best as possible. It took a couple of hours to realize that it was over,” Schuler said. “When we arrived back in Dubuque a lot of our parents were there with signs welcoming us home and telling us how proud they were for everything we accomplished and had done for the program.”

The Loras wrestling team was ranked first in the nation heading into the national championships. A school record eight Duhawks qualified to compete at nationals. The championship was scheduled to take place just up the road in Cedar Rapids. That domino fell on March 12.

“Being my senior year and not having another chance at standing on top of the podium was heartbreaking,” Guy Patron, a graduated senior said. “There was nothing that could replace it at the time and there was nothing to do except celebrate the end of the season and my career.”

Not only were winter national championships cancelled, but spring sports were anxiously awaiting news on their schedules as well. Softball had already completed their annual Florida trip. It wouldn’t be long before the domino dropped on them.

“Unfortunately, it did not make the situation any easier to accept. Playing in Florida gave us a glimpse of the potential that our team had in store for conference play, and we were very ready to prove ourselves,” senior infielder Hadalyn Anderson, remembered. “For this reason, it felt defeating to have an uncontrollable factor dictate the opportunity we had been preparing for all year long.”

Let’s hope the next time anyone wants to joke about the severity of COVID-19 they will think twice. Touching all of the microphones just might be the little nudge that sends all of the dominos tumbling down.

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