By ALEXANDRA WILDER & CHRISTIAN MOYA
The men and women’s track and field teams, as well as the baseball team, had their seasons cut short last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The coaches watched their seniors work hard and grow over the course of two to four years, just to witness their final season be stripped away from them. This extra year of eligibility not only gives student-athletes a light at the end of the tunnel, but coaches too.
With top-five finishes for the both the men and women’s track and field team last year in the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Championships, head coach Chris Bradford was very excited to see his teams compete this season. Both teams were just three meets into their seasons before they were canceled.
Bradford hopes to get some of his seniors back as a result of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) decision to grant spring sport athletes an extra year of eligibility.
With 25 total seniors on both teams, they played a big role in the team’s success.
“They mean everything. They’re the heart and soul of this, of what we’re doing,” Bradford said. “We had a very strong group of seniors this year that we were really going to rely on.”
Even with the cancellation of the season, there was still a lot to be proud of. The women competed in their first indoor season, which allowed them to showcase their talent at more meets.
“I’m very proud of our women during the indoor season. A number of women earned All-Region honors,” Bradford said.
Sophomore Ayana Fields received All-Region honors in the 200-meter dash and the 400-meter run.
Fields, along with freshmen Jazminn Parrish, Elisha Salazar and Analexis Glaude, were also named to the All-West Region team in the 4×400-meter relay.
Sophomore shot put thrower Ana Tovi was the fifth Bronco on the women’s indoor track and field team to receive honors.
“For our men, we were really excited with this team. When I came here three years ago, we were building toward a season where we could do some really big things on the conference and national level. This year would have been that,” Bradford said.
Bradford can’t wait to get back with his teams and show the world what they are truly capable of.
The energy and excitement he gains from his teams is something that he is really looking forward to feeling again.
His advice to student-athletes who are struggling with this tough time is to know that this is not the end.
“You are not going through this alone,” Bradford said. “You have friends, family, teammates and coaches who are going through these tough times with you and want to be here for you.”
As the defending CCAA tournament champions, the baseball team picked up where it left off, having another great season. With an overall record of 13-8, the Broncos had a winning record going into the second half of conference.
Head coach Randy Betten is happy that the NCAA granted an extra year of eligibility.
Betten had eight seniors on the squad this season and is pleased that at least three of them have confirmed they are coming back next season.
“Our seniors are our leaders — on and off the field,” Betten said. “They preach our message and reinforce our goals as a team to the younger guys and new guys to our program.”
Betten and his team were devastated when their season was canceled. He remembers going 100 miles per hour, enjoying each game and the new challenges, to coming to an abrupt halt.
With this extra year of eligibility, Betten is happy because he is seeing it as a redshirt year for his whole team. They are being given an extra season and can look back on the previous one as a year of training and growth.
While there may be complications that come with the extra year of eligibility, Betten does not foresee any with his team for the upcoming season.
“We recruited four guys with the anticipation of eight leaving. With three of the eight returning, I think we’ll be OK,” Betten said. “The seniors coming back are excited to have an extra season to compete.”
Betten is proud of all his seniors and knows the ones that are going off to the workforce are prepared because they were great teammates and great people.
While he has a positive outlook on the situation, he is aware many student-athletes are struggling without their sports, even with the extra year of eligibility.
His advice to student-athletes everywhere is to stay strong and know the hard times will pass.
“Understand this is just a moment in time, and we’re going to get through this,” Betten said. “Stay the course. Meditate. Take some time for yourself. We have to have patience. To the guys returning, there will be more baseball to play. We will have another opportunity to get out there and play as a team.”
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