Anthony Sanchez

Anthony Sanchez is off and running after taking the baton from Miguel Diaz on the first exchange of the 4 X 800 relay at Lakeside. It was the only outdoor meet for the Leopards.

It’s hard to imagine a good time for an athletic team to lose a season, but some times are worse than others. The 2020 season that was Coronavirus cancelled was a very bad time for it to happen to the De Queen boys track team.

“We had a really good senior class,” said coach Jonathan Lindsey. “After we got runner-up at the indoor state meet, I felt like we were going to be in the mix to compete for the title outdoors.”

The Leopards had one outdoor meet before the season was interrupted and eventually terminated. “We won the Lakeside relays by 30 points. We came off that feeling that our guys were getting better,” the coach said.

The Leopards were en route to their second outdoor meet, but did not get there. “We were on the way to Prescott,” Lindsey explained. “We learned that, earlier that day, a couple of cases had been found in Pine Bluff. Pine Bluff was supposed to be at the meet. We turned around between Lockesburg and Nashville. We didn’t want to take chances.”

Then came the originally school closure. It was for one week only, but Lindsey was not optimistic even at that point. “I felt it was pretty much over. I just kind of had the feeling that if the schools were shut down with just a handful of cases discovered, probably the season was over,” he said. “I was hopeful we would be back, but I didn’t feel like we would be.”

Ever hopeful, Lindsey tried to keep the runners running. “Before we left, we didn’t know how long it would be. On the last day I gave them a list of five or six workouts to do on their own, told them to pick out three or four per week,” he recalled. “We used the Remind App as a team to stay in touch as best we could. It’s about all you could do.

“A lot of guys work on their own. I tried to encourage them to keep running, keep moving. They were not around people. There’s always a road to get work in. I’d be driving and see some them running on Collin Raye Drive.”

The senior group was spread out through short races, long races and field events. “Marques Ester was in the high 43’s in triple jump indoors and was getting into shape for sprints. Also he would have gone to the decathlon,” Lindsey said. “Miguel Diaz and Anthony Sanchez in the distance races were both primed for good senior seasons. Both could score at state.

“Enrique Zapata was most improved. He was coming on in the 400 and 800 and had made himself a part of our relays. He was just starting to bust out. Song Chhang in the hurdles and Melvin Cerda in the 400 were being their consistent selves. Jampiere Flores was coming into track after a great cross country season.”

The chances for state meet points in the field were high as well. “Chase Pearce would have scored for sure in state in the pole vault. Kade Martin had set a personal record in shot put already, and he was just out of basketball. Julio Alvarez, a newcomer, was showing a lot of promise in shot. There were a lot of other solid guys,” said the coach.

Lindsey has coped with the shutdown by staying busy. “I’ve spent lot of time with my family. I finished a lot of projects around the house. I’m trying to get some exercise when I can,” he said.

“The worse thing was not being able to see the seniors compete. It’s always hopefully they will be at their best their senior years, then it gets taken away. I just hate it for them. It was all trending in right direction, but they don’t get it back.

“It’s weird deal. Never in career did I think that something like this would happen, but I believe the Triple A made right decision to protect the student athletes.”

The Arkansas Activities Association has imposed a dead period that runs until the end of May. Lindsey hopes the virus has run its course and the usual summer athletic activities are permitted by that time. Even it that comes to be, he will have a different summer than what has become his norm of football camps and 7-on-7 competitions. He is leaving the De Queen football coaching staff and moving to cross country.

“Basically the opportunity came for me to get into cross country which will allow me more time with my family. I’ve coached football 16 years, 13 at De Queen, and enjoyed every second of it, but you can’t get back time with your family,” he said.

Between the boys and girls teams, De Queen usually has 50-60 -- and some years more -- out for cross country every fall. “There are a lot of kids in cross country. I’m excited to help out. I’m very appreciative of the administration for giving me the opportunity,” he said. “I’m going back to a sport I’ve coached before. I really enjoy doing it.”

Before coming to De Queen, Lindsey coached Beebe to its only cross country state championship.

Cross country has expanded at De Queen to include junior high as well as high school teams. The cancellation of track season will be felt next fall. Eighth graders out for cross country for the first time usually have competed a season in track, not this time. “Where it hurts most is the development of the younger kids. The seventh graders got in one half of a meet. As eighth graders, they will have no experience,” Lindsey said. “We will have to spend a lot of time with them coaching them up.”

“The best outcome is just to get back to normal way of life. I look forward to whenever that day comes,” he said. “I’m anxious to get back with the kids whenever it’s deemed safe to do so.”

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