By Dave Morrison

A thoughtful and insightful look back at career highlights and the Covid-19 pandemic by senior athletes from around the region.

Today we hear from Westside’s Emily Prichard, Independence’s Mackenzie Holley and Kylie Nelson, Shady Spring’s Haven Chapman and Greenbrier West’s Peyton Brown Camryn Dorsey and Reegan Lively. 

This is the third in a series and we wanted to give the seniors an opportunity to look back in their own words. 

They might not get to finish their senior year but are proving to be winners nonetheless.

Emily Prichard was one of the top returnees for a Westside softball team and she is also a student leader at her school. Last season she hit .423 with two HR, 26 RBI. She had signed to play at WVU Tech.

“I started playing summer ball with Westside in 7th grade.  I looked up to each of the players but especially the seniors. They always cheered me on and had my back. I couldn’t wait to play in high school and I couldn’t wait for my senior season to be a team leader.

“While playing for Westside I have been 1st Team All-Coalfield Conference each year, made the all-tournament team and I’ve played varsity as a first baseman since freshman year.  

“Two of my biggest highlights have been hitting two home runs last year at Greenbrier East and accounting for all 12 runs for my team in that game and signing to play at WVU Tech.  

“My team had been putting in a lot of extra hours in our new batting cage getting ready for this year and making a run for states. I had just got a new bat that I couldn’t wait to use and we had ordered two new uniforms that I couldn’t wait to wear.  

When we left school on March 12th and we were told we couldn’t practice that day, I never imagined my senior season was over.  I never imagined I would never take first base again, that I would never get to walk up to the plate again to bat, that I wouldn’t have a Senior Night.  I never imagined I wouldn’t get to do mine and my dad’s (a coach) special handshake again when coming on and off the field. 

I guess the worse part is not knowing if our hard work paid off, if we would’ve made it to states, if I would’ve made All-Tournament, All-Coalfield and All-State.  

I’m going to choose to believe we would’ve had an incredible year! 

“To my team and coaches, even though we never took the field this year for a game, know that I love each of you and will forever treasure my memories of being a Lady Renegade!”

Mackenzie Holley was a leader at Independence and had hoped to return to the state tournament as a senior. She has signed to play at WVU Tech.

“It is so hard to choose a favorite memory when the whole experience brings a smile to your face. If I had to choose one though, it would be the experience of going to states even if we didn’t win the title like we had hoped for. 

“Going to states was something I’ll never forget and something I’ll always be grateful I got to experience with my best friends. 

“My greatest highlight would be signing to Tech to play softball. Being gifted the opportunity to play at the next level is something I have dreamed about since I started playing. 

“This pandemic has brought out every emotion. I have been heartbroken, hopeful, anxious and everything in between. If we do get a season I’ll be happy regardless of the outcome.”

Kylie Nelson, Independence, helped the Lady Patriots make it to the state tournament last season.

“I have played ball from the time I could pick up a ball to now. I have put in countless hours on the field, doing the best I can to work towards a state title with my team. 

“Last year our dreams of making it to states came true. Saying that, my favorite memory of ball comes from states. We were in a battling game against Herbert Hoover that went into extra innings. I was playing right field and made a diving catch in foul territory. I have never felt more successful in my life than I did at that moment. The feelings I felt in that moment will always be something I remember. The crowd was cheering very loud and I was thrilled to have made a diving play in the game that meant the most. 

“This season is the one we have all waited on for years. Your senior year is supposed to be a year full of wonderful memories you will never forget. It is very hard accepting the fact that we won’t get the year we had worked so hard for. 

“I’ve learned that you don’t always have to understand things but I trust in God and the plan he has for me. I put my faith in Him and I’ve prayed about it every night. He knows what we truly need more than any of us so if we are meant to have some type of a season then we will and if not, there’s a reason for it all, we just can’t see it yet. 

“I remind myself through this tragic time that “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good” as we said before every game before rushing on the field to start the game.”

Shady Spring’s Haven Chapman was a two-sport athlete for the Tigers, an all-state football player and helped Shady Spring to the playoffs. 

“i’ve been really blessed to be able to experience all the memories I have during my high school years. 

“One of the top memories was when we beat Wyoming East this year at East. We were ranked 12th and they were ranked 5th. Everyone in Wyoming County was there and almost all of Shady came.  It was a great game, great atmosphere and I’m glad I got to experience that with the team. 

“Another one of my my favorite memories was walking out and playing our home playoff game against Mingo Central this past year in front of the whole Shady Spring community. It was awesome to see the whole community come out to that game. Unfortunately we came up short but it was still an awesome thing to experience.                                  

“This virus is crazy. I was blessed to be able to play my senior football season, but our basketball season was cut short right before the state tournament. I feel bad for everyone who’s season was cut off early. I believe were gonna get this soon.”

Peyton Brown has been a mainstay with the Greenbrier West baseball team for four years. 

“One of my favorite highlights of my high school career was we were playing at Midland Trail, tied game in the top of the sixth inning, bases loaded and two outs. I hit a triple to go up by three and we went on to win the game. 

“This virus isn’t something to play around with. I’m glad we are taking precautions but it does suck knowing that my last season could be over, but not only that but it could affect me from getting my chance to play my last home game, to get to play that last game with the teammates that I have formed a bond with over the years. 

“Baseball has always been an important part of my life, and I never thought it would end this way. This virus has taken more then what people realize. It’s taken the bonds we created at the beginning of this year. It has ruined what is supposed to be the best year of our lives. 

“The thought of it canceling graduation is devastating. Myself and many other seniors have worked for the last 12 years of our lives just too get that ripped away from us because of a virus. It’s a lot of mixed emotions. I’m sad, I’m mad, I’m hurt not playing baseball and not going to school my last year leaves a void inside all of us seniors. I just hope and pray that we may get to play a last few games but most of all that we can walk across that stage and receive our diploma.”

Camryn Dorsey has helped Greenbrier West go from falling in the regional to making it to the state tournament in softball, a school first.

“The best part of my high school career was definitely the chemistry all the teams had. We played as one!”

“My sophomore year we made it to regionals and played in the most interesting game I have ever been part of! “We came up a little short in the end and went home after regionals that year. But junior year (last year) we worked harder than ever. Our motto was ‘play for May.’

“We didn’t want to ever feel that way again. We learned from our mistakes. “When we made it to regionals last year we knew what we wanted. We went into it like any other game. Knowing Valley was good we would have to work it wouldn’t be handed to us. We have it all we had and came out on top this time! 

“Then we let our nerves get the best of us at states but it was still and amazing experience making it to states for the first time in school history for softball! 

“This year we wanted once again, more than last year however COVID-19 has got in the way. While knowing it’s to keep everyone safe it’s still a tough pill to swallow. We seniors definitely weren’t finished! We want that last first game and the last game! We still have many goals to accomplish and with little chance to achieve our goals we will hold hope until the announcement is made that we won’t get that last opportunity!”

Reegan Lively was also a leader for the record-setting Greenbrier West softball team and was a first-team all-state performer.

”I have played softball for Greenbrier West High School for four years now. Since the virus has taken away my senior year, my softball career will be over after this summer. In the 2017-2018 year, I was blessed to have made first-team all-state, and once again in the 2018-2019 year, as being a part of second-team all-state. I am so honored to be on a team which set a record in school history as the first softball team to make it to states! I love my coaches and teammates dearly and will cherish the memories made while playing the game I love.”