Tahlequah senior student-athletes only have memories now

Byron Beers | Daily Press

Tahlequah senior Kooper McAlvain spent part of his Wednesday afternoon tossing a baseball around.

Kooper McAlvain, Tate Christian, Seth Stacey and Tristan King are trying to make sense of it all.

It shouldn’t be like this for the Tahlequah High School seniors and student-athletes.

Their daily lives have been altered.

There’s no more attending classes.

There’s no more games to play.

There’s no senior activities.

They can’t mingle with classmates in a school-like atmosphere.

All of that has been taken away from them.

The COVID-19 outbreak has interrupted and destroyed day-to-day functions.

It sprouted again on Wednesday when it was announced that the basketball state tournaments would go from pause to stop.

Spring sports — baseball, slowpitch softball, soccer, track, golf and tennis — are gone too.

The four seniors were a part of something special at Tahlequah.

McAlvain, Christian and King played big roles on the football field and helped the Tigers to a 9-2 record and the school’s first district championship since 1991.

McAlvain and King were both contributors on a basketball team that didn’t get to finish it’s first journey to a state tournament in 11 years.

All four of them were staples for a baseball team that was just getting started.

McAlvain never got to step foot on the baseball field, nor will he get to participate in the Class 5A Basketball State Tournament.

McAlvain was hit hard twice. He was going to join the baseball team in Gulf Shores, Alabama over spring break as soon as the basketball state tournament was completed.

“That was definitely the worst part about it because we were on our way to the state tournament to play for the first time in 11 years,” McAlvain said. “We were all excited and thought we were ready to play. Then we get the call saying it was canceled. That was just probably the worst part of the year. Coach [Bret] Bouher then texted us not much later and said the Alabama trip was canceled. Both of those just hit right away.”

Christian, who’s still recovering from a labral tear that he suffered as the Tigers’ starting quarterback last November, has been limited to hitting duties on the baseball field. He was the District 5A-4 Co-Quarterback of the Year. On the diamond, he had a triple and four runs driven in through five games.

“I was just starting to get back into the flow of things and then it all just stopped,” Christian said. “When you’re going through high school and middle school you’re thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I can’t wait to get out of here. I can’t wait to graduate.’ When it hits you want everything to slow down so you can enjoy it. It doesn’t really feel real yet.”

Stacey, nearly unhittable from the mound over his entire career, was a part of a combined no-hitter in Tahlequah’s season-opening 15-1 win over Sequoyah. In his final outing, he earned a complete-game win and recorded 11 strikeouts in the Tigers’ 4-3 win over Tulsa Edison on March 10.

“I’m just sad about all of it — not getting to play in my senior year, not getting to go back to school and see my friends. I won’t get to see most of them after high school,” Stacey said.

King had already missed his entire junior year as a football, basketball and baseball player due to a hardship issue. He went out with a bang against Edison when he clubbed a two-run homer and finished with two hits. The home run was the first and last of his prep career.

“It’s pretty sad for everyone, especially seniors,” King said. “After having to sit out of sports my junior year, I was so excited to get to play varsity baseball this year. We were starting the season fairly well and about to head to Gulf Shores [Alabama] for a tournament, until it was canceled because of the coronavirus. As a senior, you’re supposed to get to enjoy the last semester of high school with things like prom and graduation.”

McAlvain, Christian and Stacey are finding ways to cope.

“When you sit at home you can only think about it,” McAlvain said. “You try to get your mind off the whole situation. I’ve been playing basketball at Cherokee and hanging out with my friends.”

“I’ve been fishing constantly. I think I’ve been fishing every single day of the break,” Christian said. “A bunch of us will go down to Cherokee, go down and play basketball...just trying to stay out and not really sit at home.”

“I’ve been throwing, practicing baseball, fishing, playing video games, and going to Koop’s house,” Stacey said.

They’re disappointed, but they understand.

“Obviously we would never want anyone’s health to be jeopardized but to have so many things I was looking forward to being taken away kind of stinks,” King said. “I hope that this is gone before graduation or that we can find a way to still have graduation.”

McAlvain, Christian, Stacey and King will each continue their athletic careers at the next level. McAlvain, Christian and King have signed to play football at Northeastern State, while Stacey will play baseball at Seminole State College.

But for now, all they have are memories.

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