AZUSA, Calif.—“I hung up my jersey for the last time without even knowing it,” Cheyenne Eskridge told The Epoch Times.
Eskridge, a senior acrobatics and tumbling athlete at Azusa Pacific University who has been training for 20 years, had just learned that her sport’s highly-anticipated 2020 championships had been canceled—along with all remaining meets for the season—in an effort to control the spread of the CCP virus.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mishandling allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.
Suddenly, her collegiate athletic career was over.
“It’s definitely been a tough time, to take it in and realize that I’m not a college athlete anymore,” Eskridge said. “And that that was taken away from me from something that was out of my control.”
On March 12, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) canceled its Division I men’s and women’s 2020 basketball tournaments, as well as all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships, due to “evolving new coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns.”
In concord, the National Collegiate Acrobatics & Tumbling Association (NCATA) announced the cancellation of its season’s 2020 national championships. When USA Gymnastics, the sport’s sanctioning body, suspended all events through March 30, NCATA ended its season.
“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the NCAA’s statement read.
For Eskridge and other disappointed seniors, the cancellation meant missing out not only on their last championships, but also on Azusa Pacific’s special Senior Night—their final moment to showcase skills in front of family and friends.
“For me, it was just my last opportunity to be able to broadcast what I have learned over the four years, and being able to show that to my family, my teammates, my coaches,” Eskridge said. “And just making all of them proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in these past four years here.”
For Eskridge’s teammate, senior Maddie Turner, a tumbler as well as an acrobat, not having a Senior Night was especially “sad” because it would have been “a closure moment.”
“This is obviously just ripped away now,” Turner told The Epoch Times.
The sudden cancellation of their season has made her realize that she has to “find another purpose” in life, other than acrobatics.
“It’s kind of made me realize that I need to figure out what life without acro is, and life without a sport,” Turner said. “Because I’ve done a sport for my whole life. I’ve always had to go to practice after school, and manage time that way.”
In light of the seasons being cut short, athletes and coaches across the country have created a petition on Change.org calling for the NCAA to grant seniors another year of eligibility.
“It’s really unfortunate, and I know that there’s a lot that are affected by this,” said Turner. “And I know some are petitioning and asking for eligibility back. But I hope that those who are able to, and want that to happen, that happens for them.”
In a written statement, the NCAA “agreed that eligibility relief is appropriate for all Division I student-athletes who participated in spring sports,” and said that details would be made available at a later time.
Azusa Pacific, a private Christian university located 26 miles northeast of Los Angeles, also transitioned its students to online classes beginning on March 16, for the remainder of the semester.
Though no COVID-19 cases had yet been confirmed on the college campus, in the city of Azusa, or in nearby Glendora, the school opted to take preventive measures, in conjunction with the city’s announcement that it would be shutting down its senior center beginning on March 16, for one month, as a precautionary measure.
“Our strategies align with public health guidelines and reflect an abundance of caution,” the school said via email. “We have activated our Critical Incident Response Team COVID-19 Task Force to lead our preparedness, response, and decision making.”
It is not known whether the university’s graduation ceremony will be canceled or postponed at this time.
But for senior athletes such as Eskridge and Turner, disappointment about their canceled seasons currently outweighs any concern about a graduation ceremony.
“It definitely hurts knowing that I’m not going to be able to continue my season,” Eskridge said, “for reasons outside of my own.”