The North Bend Eagle


NBC pole vaulters
NBC seniors Ashley Humlicek and Julia Knapp sit on the empty pole vault pad with only memories left of promising track careers that were cut a year short. COVID-19 forced the NSAA to cancel spring sports.

Spring athletes left to wonder what could have been

by Nathan Arneal
Published 4/15/20

The spring of 2020 will be not be forgotten. For spring sport athletes, it will be a spring remembered for the memories not made. The records that weren’t broken. The medals that weren’t won. The history that wasn’t made.

And yes, there was history to be made.

The high school spring sports season was two weeks into official practices when NBC called off school for two weeks on March 15. Soon, that two weeks was changed to indefinitely. On April 2, the Nebraska School Activities Association announced that the entire spring sports season was cancelled.

Tiger track coach Jeff Voss sent an e-mail to his team with the news. For two senior pole vaulters dreaming of big things, it was devastating.

“I had tears coming out of my eyes the first sentence of the e-mail he sent us,” Julia Knapp said. “I think I cried for like three hours. It’s been on and off.”

She quickly sent a text to fellow senior vaulter Ashley Humlicek.

“It was hard to get the news that everything is cancelled,” Humlicek said. “It took a lot of calling between both of us, just crying over the phone.”

Knapp and Humlicek are both former state medalists and among the nine athletes to clear 10 feet at last year’s state meet. Five of those athletes were seniors. It is not unrealistic to think Humlicek and Knapp would have both placed in the top three or four this season.

“We were both planning on crushing the school record this year,” Humlicek said.
Both athletes have personal best vaults of 10-foot-6. The school record is 10-8.

Track and field wasn’t the only sport where school records were being threatened.

The NBC golf team enjoyed unseasonably warm weather during its two weeks of practice. Coach Todd Ziettlow said senior Afton Obershaw was setting himself up for one of the best seasons in NBC history, with a chance at placing in the top five at districts and becoming the third state qualifier in school history.

Obershaw said he kept practicing on his own when school was first called off, hoping eventaully to get a season in. It was hard to handle the news of the spring season being cancelled.

“I cried a little bit,” Obersaw said. “I worked on golf for four years straight. That’s all I did. Four hours a day, five or six days a week. Then to have that last season ripped away, it really killed me.”

Last summer Obershaw shot a 32 on the front nine at the North Bend Golf Course. The nine-hole school record is 35.

“I was really hoping to have this season because I was trying to get on that record board at the school,” Obershaw said. “That was one of my hopes, and now I don’t get it anymore.”

A lot of offseason work is going to go for naught. Humlicek started doing pole vault drills in January. As soon as the boys basketball team was eliminated from districts, the mats were moved into the old gym and she started vaulting. She was already going over 10-6 with a bungee crossbar. Voss said she was noticeably faster than last year.

Humlicek also attended several summer camps and winter clinics to prepare for the season. One of her teammates that also participated in those camps and clinics was junior Ally Pojar, the reigning state champion in the high jump.

After the girls state basketball tournament, the victorious girls, including Pojar, were given a week off before starting track practice. Pojar took two days off then showed up for practice the Wednesday after the state championship game.

“I could not wait to get started,” she said.

Knapp, also a member of the basketball team, got an early start was well, getting in one morning vault session.

Read the full story in the print or e-edition.

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