Central adjusts to news it won't re-open

Sports teams, seniors, other Red Devils missing out on host of spring activities, celebrations

Prom. Graduation. State titles.

All have been in jeopardy since Hinsdale Central was closed March 13. But the news that all have been canceled is official — and it’s difficult to hear.

“I was holding out hope,” Hinsdale Central varsity boys tennis coach John Naisbitt said. “I was irrationally thinking we could maybe meet in early to mid-May and get it going and just do a sectional and a state. I was grasping at straws trying to get this done because we have an outstanding team.”

Then Gov. JB Pritzker announced Friday schools would remain closed through the end of year and the Illinois High School Association announced Tuesday there would be no way to salvage a spring sports season.

“Our goal was to win state for the third straight time. Today it really finally hits home that that opportunity will never be afforded us,” Naisbitt said Tuesday. “We’re all safe. My players are safe and their parents, and that’s what’s important.”

He said he feels especially bad for senior captains Joseph Cunningham and Rayan Nehme.

The girls lacrosse team had its sights on a state title this spring, its second in three years. Maggie Zentgraf also was looking forward to her first season as head coach.

“I’ve coached the seniors for four years,” said Zentgraf, who first joined the team as an assistant coach. “You get a taste of it and are like ‘It’s going to be great,’ and then it gets swept out from under you.”

Two players were injured last year when the team lost the state title game to New Trier. This year the team would have brought a more versatile ensemble to the post-season, she said.

“The seniors did it when they were sophomores. This senior class was an integral part of winning that,” she said.

With five of her even seniors committed to playing in college, Zentgraf has been working to make sure they stay in shape. One day she sent out a packet with 150 drills.

“They really have to keep up their skills,” she said of her seniors.

She appreciated the opportunity to see the athletes’ faces during a recent Zoom meeting with the team.

“Seeing them the other night, I was like, ‘Oh, I miss you guys.’ It’s such a special group of kids,” she said.

Athletes represent just a portion of the Central students who are missing out this year — on everything from the spring musical to prom to graduation.

“There are so many things that we’ve missed and that we can’t do,” said Sally Phillip, activities director. “That the best part about my job is I see all these kids doing what they love to do.”

As one of the Student Council sponsors, Phillip has been meeting with student leaders to discuss how to finish out this year and to begin to plan for next year. She said one her student’s responses to Pritzker’s announcement summarizes how many feel.

“I was expecting it but it was still really sad and hard,” the student said.

Seniors will participate in a virtual graduation ceremony May 21. Phillip said the hope is to have some type of in-person celebration in July, perhaps a mini-graduation or prom.

The senior picnic is her favorite event each year, Phillip said.

“It’s the last time you have time to hang out with these kids and say goodbye and tell them what a good year it was,” she said. “I’m sad not to be able to do that and have that time with those kids.”

Students and staff have done an awesome job adjusting to remote learning, she said. But she and Naisbitt agreed being separated from students is difficult.

“This whole thing has taught me I could never work from home and just how much I really enjoy being surrounded by the energy of these kids,” she said.