Over before it started: Panther coaches sad, but not surprised over spring sports cancellation

The track at Dean Nelson Field sits empty with schools closed and high school spring sports cancelled this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At far right are the upside down soccer goals, which will also sit idle this spring. (Photos by Pete Temple)

Panther coaches have encouraged athletes to continue to work on their games without organized practices, as golfer Ty Kehoe did April 7 at the Monticello Golf Club.
Pete Temple
Express Sports Editor

     A spring sports season for Monticello High School that was brimming with potential was over before it started, after the April 17 announcement by Gov. Kim Reynolds that schools across Iowa were to close for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year, due to the COVID-19 spread.

     Each of the six Panther head coaches who direct the spring teams expressed their disappointment, but also their understanding, at the decision.

     The coaches include Greg Williams, boys track; Vallerie Lynn, girls track; Curt Tauke, boys golf; Joe Steen, girls golf; Colton Halder, boys soccer; and Bruce Feuling, girls soccer.

     The decision affected each of them in different ways. Tauke was entering his 37th consecutive year of coaching the team, but will miss this year. Williams and Lynn both had 50-plus athletes out for their respective track teams. Halder’s chance to be a head coach for the first time will have to wait.

     The girls golf team was looking forward to a strong season, and the girls soccer team was going to be led by seven experienced seniors in hopes of improvement.

     Golf and soccer had not even begun practice, while the track teams had been practicing for a few weeks.

     The Express contacted each of the coaches to get their views on the decision, and the season that wasn’t to be.


     Monticello Express: When did you first learn that high school spring sports were shutting down?

     Lynn: As we were preparing for our first meet, which was to be held March 13 at the University of Dubuque, things began happening and shutting down. That Tuesday night we found out the meet had been cancelled. This was the week before spring break. That Friday we had an intrasquad meet. The girls did very well and had a great time. I gave them a little speech beforehand being that was the Friday before spring break, and I was really unsure of what was going to happen. Little did I know that was the last time we would meet together as a team.

     Williams: That Friday, the 17th, with everyone else.

     Feuling: When I received an email from the State High School Soccer Association.


     Express: Were you surprised by the decision? Do you feel it was the correct call? Why or why not?

     Tauke: I was not surprised. It would be extremely difficult to justify closing schools but allowing sports to continue. I do believe it was the correct call. As much as we all love sports, it pales in comparison to our love for one another. Is a golf meet or track meet more important than an athlete’s life or the life of a fan who’s infected by attending the event?

     Lynn: Absolutely (it was the correct call). Family, health and safety should always come first.

     Halder: The health and safety of the students is the most important thing right now.

     Feuling: I was not totally surprised. After the first postponement I thought it would be difficult to meet the metrics to reopen the schools.

     Steen: I was not surprised based on what was going on with our society.


     Express: What was your personal reaction to the news?

     Tauke: I was extremely disappointed for our team. I know the boys played a lot last summer in preparation for this season, and they were really looking forward to a great season. We don’t have any seniors on the team, so everyone, we hope, will have at least one more year to compete.

     Steen: I felt bad for the kids who were not getting to participate in their sport.

     Lynn: I felt so bad for the kids. I was pretty lost; not sure how to deal with this myself and/or help the kids deal with it.

     Williams: It was very disappointing to say the least.

     Halder: I felt sad, that the seniors lost out on their final seasons and that all the athletes lost out on what they had been working for.


     Express: How were things looking for your team this season, prior to the shutdown?

     Williams: We had a record number of boys out for track, 56. We certainly had great potential this year. We had four weeks of practice prior to the first school shutdown. Things were going great.

     Tauke: We had five returning lettermen, all juniors, with some of them playing varsity since they were freshmen.

     Steen: I think we would have had a good season. I was looking forward to coaching this group.

     Feuling: We had over 30 girls signed up, and with seven seniors I was looking forward to using that experience to win games and develop the younger players.


     Express: You weren’t allowed to coach athletes in person after the Gov. Reynolds announcement, but what kinds of things had been taking place in order to keep them ready in case there was a season?

     Tauke: Fortunately for us, the golf course is still allowed to be open, with guidelines in place about social distancing. I have encouraged the boys to play on their own as much as they can.

     Lynn: We were able to send them workouts. We were just not able to meet face to face or have them work in groups. We have also been keeping in touch via text message, and we have had a team Zoom meeting each week just so that they could see each other and touch base.

     Halder: Just encouraging them to get out and exercise and stay positive. Once it was completely cancelled, start focusing on getting better and building for next season.

     Williams: I was and still am getting workouts to the guys. It is hard not being there to watch the workouts and get feedback. All athletes can use the internet for drills and technique for all the events in track and field.

     Steen: We were not able to have any official practices, because every single year our season starts on our spring break. I told them if they could practice on their own, to do so. I also said they should practice for next year with courses allowed to be open.


     Express: Anything you would like to say to the Class of 2020, regarding this situation?

     Feuling: Of all the things that either have happened or will happen in your life, this is one of those milestone moments that you will never forget. Thanks for allowing me the privilege of coaching you in high school. Please stay soccer active. Join a city league, volunteer to coach younger players, and pass along what you have learned. Play in college, even if it is on an intramural league. Get your state coaching certificate and coach at a high school. I hope that as you get older and remember your high school experience, you will fondly remember your soccer experience.

     Halder: You have to keep your head up and keep moving forward no matter how bad situations seem at the time.”

     Lynn: Adversity and tough times actually make you better prepared to deal with things later in life. You may not believe me, but you will come out of this better than before. I am so proud of all of you. Go out and do great things.



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