The coronavirus outbreak has taken away many once-in-a-lifetime experiences for high school seniors in just a few months.
At Jackson High School, the softball team is missing out on a chance to chase unprecedented success on the diamond in the state of Washington — a third straight Class 4A state title.
“I definitely think we had the players to do that,” senior Kassidi Dean said. “We all worked hard in the offseason to come back together.”
The two-time defending state champion Timberwolves were set to have a chance to complete the first-ever three-peat in 4A since Washington’s inaugural state softball championship game in 1978. Those hopes were wiped out April 7 when Gov. Jay Inslee extended school closures through June 19, which included the cancellation of all in-person extracurricular athletics and activities through the end of the school year.
“When we got the word that school was going to be closed and we got confirmation from the WIAA that we weren’t going to have a season,” Jackson coach Kyle Peacocke said, “it was pretty heartbreaking to be honest with you. It was pretty tough for the coaches and for the kids.”
A third state title would have been perfect farewell statement from Jackson’s seniors, who felt they had something to prove this year after the graduation of two-way standout Iyanla de Jesus, a two-time Washington State Softball Coaches Association Class 4A State Player of the Year.
“It was our time to shine,” senior Jillian Hampson said. “We really wanted to prove to everybody that we’re more than just Iyanla, because that’s what people are saying, and we really did think we could make it to another state title.”
Missing out on this season was about more than winning titles for the Timberwolves, though. Many of Jackson’s players grew up playing on Little League and select softball teams together.
This was supposed to be that special final season for childhood friends.
“It’s just hard to see that we didn’t get our last year to play together,” Hampson said. “We all had a good softball-bond, and we don’t get to cherish that one last time. But we’re getting through it.”
For some seniors on the squad, this was supposed to be the year all their patience and hard-work culminated into extended varsity playing time.
Pitchers Sam Warren and Taylor Harrington were finally going to get their chance to prove themselves in the circle this season after waiting behind de Jesus for three years.
“It was very hard for me to wait,” Warren said. “I felt like I was working really hard and all I wanted was just to get an opportunity. At the end of the day, it’s just really frustrating to know that this season was cut short.
“… I just feel like all that work I put it was kind of for nothing, almost. It was really, really sad because I was really excited.”
Their coach recognizes what’s been taken away from them.
“It’s gut-wrenching,” Peacocke said. “… They put in three years to be in this position and kind of have their time in the sun to be in the circle on a regular basis. It’s hard to think about that for them because this was their chance.”
Peacocke said that finding a way to honor his seniors is a top priority. He said he had been in discussion with some coaches in Wesco and KingCo about trying to put together some sort of senior game this summer.
“The coaches are still fighting and trying to do whatever we can to think of things to do for this year’s kids,” he said.
The prospect of getting together on the field one more time is certainly one Jackson’s seniors would embrace, even if it doesn’t result in playing a game.
“I wish we got one more chance,” senior Sammy Klotter said. “Just one more chance to go out and practice, not even a game.”