Sports are important for many reasons. Some of the obvious ones include helping to develop an athlete’s physical well-being, learn the concepts of teamwork and discipline, and learning how to accept and apply coaching. There are certainly other aspects of sports that are beneficial but yet many times unnoticed. Togetherness is a spinoff of sports and St. Croix Falls has needed togetherness.
Last summer the tragic news spread around St. Croix Falls that one of their soon to be seniors, Jordan Braund, was involved in a horrific car accident as Braund was heading back from powerlifting training. After spending much of her summer recovering from the accident Braund returned to school although the effects of her accident would last a lifetime. Then, just as the winter sports season was winding down, more tragic news enveloped the town. McKinley Erickson and Kegan Koshiol were killed in another car accident that put the town completely into mourning.
Sports were about to help with the healing process as the St. Croix Falls spring sports were just getting underway. Athletes were getting ready to compete in track and field, baseball, softball and golf. The kids needed each other as they were beginning to heal from those unthinkable events that had taken place in the last few months. Then the coronavirus caused a world-wide pandemic which has completely turned normal into abnormal. No longer would the athletes get a chance to mourn their losses with each other.
“I am sad for all of our athletes, particularly our seniors,” St. Croix Falls girls’ track and field coach Stephanie Belisle said. “But, this sadness runs deeper than the loss of a track season, as this year has been an extremely difficult one in St. Croix Falls. Last summer Jordan’s horrific accident was unthinkable. Yet, her recovery has been nothing short of inspiring. She is an amazing young woman. However, tragedy struck again in late February, and losing McKinley Erickson and Kegan Koshiol in another car accident was beyond devastating. They were two bright, joyful, and talented young men with promising futures. Beginning a track season without them did not feel right, and those first few days of practice were painful. Our coaches and athletes were struggling with our grief, and we were unsure how to take steps forward in navigating this path without two of our team members. At the same time, we were all trying to figure out how to help Jordan become a new kind of track athlete. Little did we know in those first few days just how different things would be. Losing an entire track season has certainly been an immense challenge for all of us. At a time when we most needed one another, it has been tremendously difficult to be apart. We mourn the loss of the season, but our perspective has certainly changed, as we continue to grieve the loss of these special young men.”
The St. Croix Falls girls’ track and field team was gunning for their ninth straight conference championship in 2020 before the season was canceled. Would SCF have had enough to make it nine straight? Probably, but we will never know. The Saints had just five seniors on the team including Sidney Hoverman, Jordan Braund, Riley Henk, Azalea Edwards and Jenna Driscoll but they were only replacing Lauren Borst and Anna Klein from last season. It appeared that St. Croix Falls was ready to defend their streak of titles that started in 2012. Joining the five seniors would have been another 21 athletes. All five seniors had earned varsity letters as well as Sierra Braund, Kylie Broten, Jana Carter, Avery Mysicka, Ella Waterworth, Grace Bergstrom, Isabelle Coen, Olivia DuRushia, Greta Erickson, Abby Jensen, Emily McCurdy and Lucia Neuman.
“Although we would certainly have our work cut out for us, we were hopeful we could win another conference title this season, which would be our last as a part of the Lakeland Conference, since we will be moving to the Heart of the North next year,” Belisle said.
Not being able to see how they stood up against the rest of the conference would have been hard, especially for the five seniors, but they also would lose out on the comradery that sports provide.
“Not being able to have a sports season has left many seniors including myself with a lack of closure to our senior year,” Edwards said. “We are missing out on the last time to learn from our coaches, train with our teammates, and compete.”
“Having my senior year of track and field not happen I am very disappointed,” Hoverman added. “I had never thought this is how my senior year of sports would end. I however, am very grateful for the opportunity to have a wonderful three years before this season and I am very thankful for the memories I have created throughout the years.”
It is certainly a shame that these five seniors did not get a chance to extend the streak of conference titles but it goes beyond just competing in a sport.
“I am sad to miss all of the “lasts” with our seniors, as they have been an enjoyable group of student-athletes throughout their high school careers,” Belisle summarized. “This senior class of young men and women are strong athletes but they are also great leaders and top-notch people. They are a group of fun and witty young people who you just want to be around. I simply miss them all so much. Those words seem inadequate, but are true. This whole track team is a group of “day-makers,” who I have been fortunate to have in my life. As much as I would love to see them all competing on the track, more than anything, I would just like to see them and have more time together. My heart hurts for all of them because of the challenges they have endured. I began this quarantine time feeling sad that we, as coaches, couldn’t be there to offer more support to our kids who needed it but, I’ve learned that we need them just as much as I thought they may have needed us. I have no doubt there would have been records broken, championships won, and many smiles, along with a few tears. I wish it could have been.”