Mountain Ridge makes up for lost time after spring season cancellationsApr 22, 2021 09:05AM ● By Josh Martinez
By Josh Martinez | [email protected]
It’s not often an inaugural season rolls around, but when it does, it can be a special occasion.
Mountain Ridge High School, which opened in 2019, was on the verge of pulling off a successful inaugural sports season but the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the school’s spring season.
One year later, the student-athletes and the community are ready for their first spring season, albeit in their second year of existence.
Athletic Director Sam Rogers said so far this spring season, he’s seen higher turnout, not only from Mountain Ridge students but also from the community, for sports that don’t usually draw big crowds.
“From a personal standpoint, it is incredible to have the spirit, the noise, just the overall feeling of having the students there brings to an athletic event,” Rogers said.
The return isn’t without it’s changes. The pandemic continues, and while vaccines are in distribution, many of the student-athletes are still following protocols.
Those protocols, however, are not so much a burden but rather as a protection.
“At least for myself and the rest of the team, we’re really trying to do our best to have a season and not get anything cancelled,” Easton Brooks, a senior baseball player, said. “We’re trying to follow COVID protocols as best we can. I know for most of our guys, we’re just hanging out and being around each other more off the field, so then we don’t increase the chance of [COVID-19] spreading.”
About a year ago, the realities of COVID-19 became more obvious and many started implementing safety measures. For the UHSAA, that meant suspending and ultimately cancelling the spring season.
This was tough for many of the spring student-athletes at Mountain Ridge, especially in the midst of its inaugural season.
Rogers said “shock and dismay” permeated throughout the spring programs. In particular, many of the coaches and administrators felt bad for last year’s seniors who didn’t get a senior season.
The baseball team was in St. George for a preseason tournament when it heard of the cancellation. Baseball coach Brock Whitney said his players took it hard.
“We prepared, and we played during the fall; we had open gym and practices during the winter; we got all excited and ready to go, and we didn’t go,” he said. “That was the hardest thing: being prepared and excited, and having it taken away.”
Disruptions were common throughout the next school year, but as spring got closer, many realized this wouldn’t be like 2020.
Rogers said he’s noticed a lot of gratitude from the spring student-athletes because it looks to be minimal disruptions for the 2021 spring season. Furthermore, he said many are taking the COVID protocols seriously, and Mountain Ridge has recently seen minimal cases of COVID-19.
Drawing on his past experience as a coach, Rogers said he knows how high school athletes’ minds work, and he sees a higher work ethic coming out of Mountain Ridge student-athletes.
“You can see that these kids not only have talent but that talent is increasing because they are working so hard in order to ensure they actually get their season,” he said. “They have a lot of pride in what they do, and that is also helping to improve their play each and every game.”
While there’s been a lot the Mountain Ridge community has missed out on because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rogers said he’s seeing a high level of excitement for this spring season.
He said there were many community members excited to support the school, even if they didn’t have a kid attending. Rogers said that was the biggest letdown from the school missing its inaugural spring season.
Still, he said it hasn’t deterred the community support.
As for the players, Brooks said there are high goals and a lot of excitement among him and his baseball teammates as they return to the diamond.
“We felt like we had something to prove, especially since last year we weren’t able to really show who we are and what we could really do,” he said.