Quick season brings joy and regrets

Hinsdale Central winter sports athletes make the best of the abbreviated schedule

A most unusual high school winter sports season has concluded, only about a month after the first competitions were held for some programs.

Despite the abbreviated schedule - with no postseason - and the COVID-19 protocols mandating masks and barring fans, coaches and senior players say they were happy to have a season at all (see season-ending results on Page 46).

Boys basketball senior member Charlie Herbst said adapting to wearing a mask during play was a challenge. And so was competing in front of empty stands, though he noted the lack of fan noise made on-court communication a lot easier.

"We loved feeding off the energy of the crowd last year, so that was something to adjust to this year," he said.

The team finished with five straight wins, making the abrupt end to his Central career last weekend even more bittersweet.

"Standing at mid-court on Saturday knowing that was it, no matter what, was something that was almost impossible to process," Herbst related. "There were two other seniors on the court with me at the end, Charlie Sessa and Quinn Cain, and the hardest thing all day was telling each other how much we loved playing with each other and how much of a pleasure it was to go into battle by each other's side since we were 5 years old."

Central varsity girls gymnastics coach Kim Estoque underscored the strangeness of the season, which even had a false start in November before resuming Jan. 20, with the team's first meet Feb. 3.

"On Feb. 9, the team was quarantined for two weeks due to a positive case on the varsity team," Estoque shared. "We had to reschedule the rest of our conference dual meet season."

Trying to do that in an already tight window made for a extremely busy couple of weeks before closing out the season at the conference meet Saturday with a second-place finish. Senior Megan McDonnell said the team tried to keep a positive outlook.

"We made it work and actually ended up having an amazing season. I'm really proud of the team this year, and it's been so fun being able to represent my school," she said.

Boys varsity bowling coach Alex Hipskind speculated that pandemic fears inhibited turnout at the team's tryouts last fall but said the team was able to maintain a competitive spirit.

"With the exception of a couple of matches, we were in every match, losing one match by four pins and another by less than 20," he said.

Hipskind commented on the impressive academic achievement of his players in addition to their prowess downing pins.

"I will remember this group as being one of the nicest and most mature groups that I have ever had the pleasure of coaching."

Boys varsity swimming head coach Bob Barber was proud of the way his squad responded, too.

"The team pulled off some spectacular times and performances in spite of all the challenges," Barber remarked, highlighting strong showings at "taper" meets that usually require more prep time. "The boys rose to the occasion and represented Hinsdale Central swimming and diving with pride.

"I will never forget how hard we fought to make this season meaningful as well as successful," he added. "I owe that to the kids for all of their dedication to the sport even during trying times like these."

Boys varsity basketball head coach Nick Latorre reflected on the time when the chance of having a season at all seemed remote.

"Personally, I'm just grateful. It didn't look like there was a chance at all," Latorre said.

That sense of gratitude permeated the team's perspective.

"We had some ups and downs, but overall it was a great year," he said.

Estoque said the delayed start of the season led to some roster attrition due to conflicts with some athletes' club commitments. She praised the resilience of those who made it through to the end.

"All the girls worked really hard trying to get back in shape and ready for routines in a short amount of time. I am proud of the way the girls handled the day-to-day changes in the season and were able to finish strong," she said. "It was hard on a day-to-day basis not knowing what was going to happen and trying to keep everyone informed. I am so glad we had some kind of season, especially for the senior gymnasts."

Hipskind praised the administration for working hard to make the season a reality "for every kid who desperately needed an outlet this year. These last 13 months have been especially hard on these kids."

McDonnell indicated that, in the end, she'll remember her final season is with a sense of thankfulness

"I'm especially thankful to have such supportive coaches and teammates," she said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean