Danny Guevara was ready for a big year.
After he received first team all-league honors for his durable pitching during his junior season, he hoped to earn the Peninsula Athletic League’s Pitcher of the Year award for his final year at Half Moon Bay High School. That dream is over.
“This is my senior season,” Guevara said. “I was expecting to play the whole year.”
Sports across the world have come to a standstill. On the Coastside, public schools have been closed since March 16. During the initial days of the shelter-in-place order, the PAL suspended all games, and students waited to see what would become of their respective seasons. It is still not clear when sporting events will resume. On April 3, based on statements from Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond, the California Interscholastic Federation canceled all sporting events for the remainder of the academic year.
Fair or not, there’s often an expectation placed on seniors to be the focal points of their teams. It holds true for both high school and collegiate athletics. Whether it’s capitalizing on previous years of experience or being a steady presence for teammates, senior year is usually a cherished opportunity, and Senior Day is a time when coaches and teammates recognize the dedication of players who will move on after the season is done. There will be no Senior Day this spring, at least not like others that have come before. At Half Moon Bay High School, between baseball, softball, swimming, boys golf and tennis, and track and field, 36 seniors had their season cut short.
The nine seniors on the Cougars baseball team had spent the past three years developing, competing for playing time and key roles. The baseball team had just started its season and earned a 5-0-1 record with big wins against schools with good baseball programs, such as Sacred Heart Prep and St. Ignatius. Now, their senior season is in the rearview mirror.
“I feel like this year everything was clicking for us,” Guevara said. “We had the mindset that this was our year to win.”
The same was true for the boys varsity tennis team, which was also undefeated at 5-0. The Cougars swept El Camino High School, 7-0, on Feb 27, then beat Woodside, 5-2, the same weekend.
“It’s a shame because this year we were beating teams that we’ve lost to the last 10 years,” coach Bradley Lehan said.
Track and field ended just as soon as it began. As has been the narrative for much of the last four years, Claire Yerby and Kendall Mansukhani were impressive, especially at the Rustbuster Invitational at Monta Vista High School on March 7. Yerby set the school record for 800 meters, at 2 minutes, 15.39 seconds, while Mansukhani set a personal best of 60.17 seconds for 400 meters. Neither of them could have anticipated it would be their final high school race.
“We were really sad because we’re a tight-knit team,” Mansukhani said. “At least it gives me more chances to train for cross-country in the fall, but I definitely would have rather finished out a good senior season with my team.”
Mansukhani and Yerby both have plans to continue their running careers at the Division I level in the fall. Yerby will run at the University of California, Berkeley, and Mansukhani will do so at Baylor University in Texas. Other athletes could have used this season to solidify their chances of continuing their respective sport at the collegiate level. For Josh Warner-Carey, a standout on the boys cross-country and track and field teams, it’s a lost opportunity.
“He hasn’t decided, but he could run in college,” Farnsworth said of Warner-Carey. “And that’s the thing, he needed this season to drop a few good races, get under two minutes and put that on his resume so he could go to a coach and try to walk on.”
Oddly enough, this class of 2020 has experience with postponed seasons due to uncontrollable circumstances, like the Camp Fire in 2018 and the North Bay fires in 2017, two of the most destructive fires in California’s history.
The duo of Yerby and Mansukhani have been pillars on their high school’s running teams for years. Yerby spent eight seasons with coach Paul Farnsworth between cross-country and track and field. Mansukhani put in seven. They’ve accumulated many miles together, and with their miles come friendship, goals, triumphs and failures.
Both runners and their coach were primed to get back to unfinished business on the track.
In particular, Farnsworth was looking forward to Mansukhani staking her claim in the 800 meters. She had the potential to come full circle after she was spiked, fell and was injured during the Central Coast Section 800-meter finals last May. She rehabbed her way back through the summer to have a solid cross-country season in the fall.
The coronavirus is a global problem, and the issues and heartache faced by Half Moon Bay’s seniors are shared by others around the world. It’s an abrupt and unfortunate break from tradition. And that stings for those who’ve invested so much time into their sport.
“From a selfish standpoint, I’m not really done coaching these kids,” Farnsworth said. “I like being around them, they’re a blast.”