HUNTINGTON, Ind. (FDN) — Following the NAIA’s cancellation of all spring seasons, many HU seniors have seen their athlete careers end in a forced retirement.
The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic has been felt by every student on HU’s campus. Classes are online, extracurriculars are shutdown, and all students who could be moved off campus are back at home.
On March 16, NAIA CEO and President Jim Carr announced that all spring sports were cancelled due to the CDC recommendation to limit the number of people in different gatherings.
“Initially I was really angry,” said Aspen Dirr, a senior standout with the Forester Track and Field team. “I came back for a fifth year to run outdoor nationals mainly.”
Dirr had missed an indoor and an outdoor season due to injury earlier in her collegiate career. When she saw an opportunity to return for a fifth year to take one last shot at the NAIA, she jumped on it.
Just before spring break, the All-American was coming off a historic performance at the NAIA Indoor Track and Field Championships. In addition to totaling numerous individual accolades, Dirr helped boost her team towards winning the overall NAIA title, which was the first in Huntington University history.
Then COVID-19 made its way to the states.
She had sky high hopes for herself going into the outdoor season. But now those hopes have become opportunities she never got to experience.
“There are many hard parts about this situation,” said Dirr. “One of them is having all of these accomplishments that I wanted to do — like be a 12-time All-American or being the most the decorated NAIA athlete of all-time.”
Though she will mourn her days running for the Foresters, she realized that the hardest part lied elsewhere.
“I’ve realized that the hardest part is that I won’t get to really see or run with my teammates ever again,” she said. “We were taken away from each other instantly and it’s over and we never got to say goodbye.”
Her teammates and coaches were some of her closest friends. They put in numerous miles everyday at 4:15 p.m., all sharing goals of making themselves better.
“It made me really sad because I realized all the other things that other people were missing out on as well,” said Dirr. “It’s not just the NAIA, it’s other divisions and high school athletes. It’s sad to miss out on these sports. We thought we were guaranteed.”
The NAIA has announced that all spring athletes will retain their eligibility if they choose to return to school for another year and Dirr completely defends their decision to shut sports down.
As for her future, Dirr is still deciding whether she will go to graduate school and compete, or whether to move on with life post-education.
“Either way,” said the Forester. “It’s all up to God.”