An exciting — albeit bizarre — Rogers County sports season has come to a close.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic struck the sports landscape hard in mid-March, wiping out events for the next five months. Baseball, golf, tennis and track had their entire seasons eradicated in the blink of an eye.
Luckily, the Progress’ sports coverage didn’t stop when sports themselves did.
Below is a breakdown of 2020’s most-read local stories on claremoreprogress.com:
“Claremore coach favors canceling summer baseball to prevent injuries”: Claremore could’ve welcomed athletes back to campus in late May, but it chose to hold off until June 15. Summer baseball was eliminated as a result, but Zebras coach Jim Sherl preferred that.
According to Sherl, proper preparation is key to avoiding serious injuries in baseball, and making a hasty return to the diamond would’ve done more harm than good for his players.
“Mike Darden gives daughter Kylee lasting sports memory”: In a loving gesture, Mike Darden carried his daughter Kylee off the soccer field after she suffered a leg injury.
Kylee Darden covered her face with her jersey to hide the tears as he hoisted her into his arms and marched her off the field to a round of applause from the crowd.
It made for a memorable moment in what ended up being the final game of her athletic career. Two days later, COVID-19 forced the cancellation of all spring sports.
“Grant honors late mother on Senior Night”: Claremore basketball star Hailey Grant notched a double-double of 23 points and 19 rebounds while also surpassing 1,000 career points less than 48 hours after her mother passed away from cancer.
After the game, Grant clutched a framed picture of her late mother during the Senior Night ceremony. A touching tribute on an emotional night.
The Lady Zebras defeated Glenpool 59-50 in overtime.
“Oologah-Talala Public Schools suspends workouts”: OTPS was going into the fourth day of its Phase 2 reopening plan before a family member of a student-athlete tested positive for COVID-19.
This revelation forced the school district to shut down all summer activities for nearly a week.
“If college football had a 64-team tournament”: In this edition of the “Nothing But Green” column, sports editor Kevin Green created a 64-team college football playoff to determine the ultimate national champion. He followed the NCAA Tournament selection guidelines as closely as possible to create four regions consisting of 16 teams each.
To ensure accurate results, he simulated each game multiple times using the complex algorithms of the Massey Ratings Matchup Tool. In the end, LSU reigned supreme, just like in real life.
“Claremore, Verdigris athletes sign Letters of Intent”: National Signing Day is a yearly tradition in which high school seniors sign a binding Letter of Intent (LOI) to play a collegiate sport for a school of their choosing.
On Feb. 7, Claremore's Mason Hayes and Dylan Kedzior, as well as Austin Neal, Sloan Roller and Eli Runyan of Verdigris signed with their respective schools.
“Claremore baseball feels effects of coronavirus”: Claremore baseball has taken out-of-state trips to compete in tournaments during spring break for more than 20 years, but that streak came to an end in 2020 when COVID-19 made its presence known in mid-March.
The Zebras were set to compete in the Gulf Coast Classic in Gulf Shores, Ala., from March 16-19.
“Verdigris, Inola, Catoosa continue play despite coronavirus delays”: Even with the rest of the sports world in utter chaos because of COVID-19, some Rogers County baseball teams chose the “show must go on” mentality.
Verdigris, Inola and Catoosa all remained in action after the OSSAA allowed school districts to decide the fate of regular-season games. All sports were canceled soon after that.
“Skinner speaks out about racial injustice”: Claremore graduate Quentin Skinner, who now plays football for the University of Kansas, gave his thoughts on the racial tensions in the United States after the death of George Floyd and also recounted instances in which he was racially targeted.
“Former OU wrestler Roller joins Verdigris football staff”: Michael Roller wrestled at Nebraska and Oklahoma from 1994 to 1998 before becoming a mainstay at Verdigris events when his family moved to the area a couple of years ago.
As a member of the Verdigris coaching staff, he also got the opportunity to once again coach his son Reese, a starting linebacker for the Cardinals.