Eager to wow prospective college programs, Ira Graham planned for this track and field season to be, in his words, “my redemption year.”
Although the senior at Eastmoor Academy in Columbus, Ohio, is two-time defending City League champion in the 110-meter high hurdles, his performances in 2019 were a shade below scholarship standards for Division I programs. A nagging hamstring injury was partly to blame.
Graham’s future in the sport he loves was riding on a spring season that now won’t happen for him and spring sports athletes around the country because of the coronavirus pandemic. With most schools closed for the rest of the academic year, and administrators overwhelmed by the logistics of reopening in the fall, even the future for fall high school sports like football is unclear.
“I feel like I’ve lost everything I worked for the past three years,” Graham told the Columbus Dispatch. “I realize I’m not alone in this. Sports are important for a lot of people … and for a lot of different reasons.”
Graham carries a 3.6 grade-point average and has been accepted at a handful of colleges. He plans to study graphic design, with an emphasis on visual arts. But without scholarship money from track, Graham’s options would be limited to either trying out as a walk-on or simply hanging up his spikes for good.
“Athletes in track — and in all sports for that matter — need opportunities to be noticed,” Eastmoor coach Jason Lewis said. “These kids haven’t competed since last May or early June. College recruiters don’t have anything to go by but times.”
The temporary shutdown of sports also could prove costly to athletes in other sports.
Spring and summer are prime seasons for boys and girls basketball. College coaches typically flock to AAU tournaments, shootouts and camps to evaluate prospects.
Even football is affected. In Alabama, Fairfield High Preparatory School teammates Ja’Sean Dukes and Keon Handley Jr. are without their fully equipped high school weight room that normally would have been their home for spring conditioning workouts.