(Neb)-Coronavirus Leaves CSC Athletics In Limbo
By Con Marshall CSC Sports Information
CHADRON, Neb. -- For just the third time since Chadron State College opened nearly 110 years ago, its athletics have been put on hold. It took the World Wars to erase the schedules previously. This time, something new -- concerns related to the mysterious Coronavirus that has the whole world on edge -- are halting the action.
The decisions made by authorities nationwide and locally in unison, came abruptly for several of the Eagles' finest athletes who were on the brink of competing at national events.
Three wrestlers and two track and field athletes were on the scene and something like 12 to 20 hours away from entering NCAA Division II elite competition when their events were cancelled.
The Chadron State softball team also was preparing to head to Denver to play Metro State in a pair of double-headers on Saturday and Sunday when they heard the games were not going to happen.
Even the dinner honoring Chadron State's two winningest wrestlers, Brett Hunter and Josh Majerus, who were to be inducted into the National Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame, was ditched on Thursday just two hours before the meal was to be served in Sioux Falls.
That's where the national tournament also was set for the weekend.
Hunter, also the CSC head wrestling coach, said after they heard the news about the banquet at least 25 people ate together that evening. The entourage included his wife and two children; his parents; friend Kraig Peterson of Rushville and his granddaughter; the wrestlers who were going to compete; and a couple more CSC grapplers who came along as workout partners.
Also in the group were CSC Athletic Director Joel Smith and Sports Information Director Kaleb Center, about a half dozen friends and relatives of the Majeruses, and Scott and Donna Ritzen. It was Scott who had recruited and coached the honorees to celebrity status.
"The gathering was pretty somber," Hunter noted. "The guys were disappointed they wouldn't get to wrestle, and we all understood. I'm sure Josh and I will still get our hall of fame plaques sometime, but their chances to become All-Americans have pretty well vanished for now, at least."
The trio of national qualifiers were seniors Wade French and Chase Clasen and junior Tate Allison. Their season had ended abruptly. Nothing could be done about it.
The same was true for the two track and field standouts, Brodie Roden and Naishaun Jernigan, who were hoping to compete against the best in Birmingham, Ala., beginning Friday.
"They were disappointed, but it wasn't anything we could control," said Coach Riley Northrup. "It wouldn't do any good to get worked up about it."
After driving a rental car from Birmingham to Huntsville, Ala., to catch a flight to Denver, Northrup and his protégés rented another car in Denver and drove to Chadron on Saturday. Later that day he took the rental on to Rapid City, left it at the airport there and picked up the state vehicle they had driven there for the airline flights to the Deep South.
After the 270 male and 270 female track and field stars who had qualified for the meet and their coaches had arrived in Birmingham from all over the nation, it was initially announced that the competition would take place but without spectators. However, before long the NCAA had ruled that the whole scenario was cancelled.
Hunter had some good news to share. Six of his wrestlers earned National Wrestling Coaches Association All-Academic Awards for competing in at least six matches this season and boasting a 3.40 cumulative grade point average or above. The announcement will be coming soon, he said.
He also noted that nine high school seniors have committed to wrestle for the Eagles next fall.
Northrup said he and his staff have rounded up 26 prep track and field prospects who are planning to enroll at CSC in August.
"Now, I'm sure they're wondering if they'll have a senior season," the coach added.
Northrup said he'll stay in contact with his current Eagles and encourage them to remain in shape so they'll be ready to compete again when the current dilemma ends.
The Chadron State golfers got in a pair of tournaments in the Las Vegas area before the season collapsed on them, too. Coach John Ritzen, like his colleagues, noted there's nothing he can do about the situation, but said the four freshmen and four sophomores were "super excited" about how well they had played.
He also said golf is easy to practice on your own and he'll send them some encouraging messages if his promising young charges have to leave the campus for the rest of the spring semester.
The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference has announced that all spring sports has been cancelled. That means no more track and field, softball and women's golf for CSC athletes will occur this season. Nothing similar has happened in 75 years.
One CSC sport may still have a spring season and national championship
Rodeo is now a formal part of the CSC athletic department even though it's not under RMAC or NCAA jurisdiction. It has its own governing body, the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, which says the National College Finals Rodeo will be held as planned in Casper in June.
Chadron State is in NIRA's Central Rocky Mountain Region, which has cancelled the first 3 rodeos of the spring season but plans to go ahead with the final 2 in Casper April 17-19 and Laramie April 24-26
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