The NCAA announced on March 30 that spring sports seniors would get an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
But not every school is following suit. Some have already made it clear that they won’t let spring sports seniors return to competition next year.
For its part, the Wichita State athletic department is letting these seniors decide whether or not they want to return for another year.
Here’s where the Shocker softball, baseball, and track & field programs stand with their seniors.
All three of the team’s seniors, Ryleigh Buck, Madison Perrigan, and Bailey Lange, announced their intentions on April 20 to return to WSU in 2021.
Perrigan is an American Athletic Conference record holder with 37 career home runs, and is two away from tying the all-time WSU record. Buck led the team with 22 runs through the shortened season, and Head Coach Kristi Bredbenner has called Lange “one of the most talented pitchers we’ve ever had in the program.”
While she said she’s eager to have her seniors return, Bredbenner admitted that the NCAA’s decision creates some challenges.
“It has posed a lot of challenges for our athletic department and for our program,” Bredbenner said. “Now we’re going to have 25 players on the team and we only get to travel somewhere between 20 and 22.”
The team entered 2020 with high expectations, as they were picked to finish second in the AAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. However, they struggled out of the gates with an 11-16 record. Bredbenner said the team underachieved, but she wants 2021 to be a fresh start for her team.
“We’re looking at this next year as a do-over,” Bredbenner said. “We’ve got to look at this year as a second chance to do something that we should have done this past year.”
Three of the five seniors from this year’s WSU baseball team — Preston Snavely, Tommy Barnhouse, and Alex Jackson — have expressed their intentions to return next season, according to Head Coach Eric Wedge. That leaves just Jacob Katzfey and Chris Diehl who have not.
Wedge said he supports the NCAA’s decision to grant seniors an extra year of eligibility.
“If they want to come back and compete for another year or be a part of something for another year, that’s great,” he said. “If they’re ready to move on with their life, I think that’s fantastic too. So, all those are positives.”
The Shockers got off to a promising 13-2 start before their season was canceled. Record aside, Wedge said he didn’t feel his team had a chance to hit their stride before the abrupt cancellation.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t have a chance to see this season through because I just feel like we would have learned so much more — especially getting into conference play,” he said.
“I think that’s really where the rubber meets the road.”
As a starter this spring, Snavely went 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA on the mound for the Shockers and was named one of the top 150 pitchers in college baseball this season by d1baseball.com. Barnhouse gave up no runs and won each of his two starts this season. Jackson was tied for second on the team with 10 runs scored.
Track & Field
The majority of track and field seniors will return to the program next year, according to Head Coach Steve Rainbolt.
Rainbolt said the seniors have been enthusiastic about the extra year of eligibility.
“I think that every single one of them would love to return if they can,” Rainbolt said, but acknowledged that some have decided against it because of other circumstances.
He said some programs will handle this situation better than others, and that it may be awhile before normalcy is restored.
“I think it’s going to take everyone some time to get back to normal,” Rainbolt said.
The Shocker men and women each finished fifth in the AAC Indoor Championships this year. Some of the team’s notable performers include distance runner Rebekah Topham, who won the conference’s Most Valuable Performer award for the second year in a row, and sprinter Adam Gauzy, who set the school indoor 400-meter record.