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Some college athletes decide to stay another year after canceled seasons

Published: Aug. 4, 2020 at 8:40 AM EDT
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CASTLETON, Vt. (WCAX) - College athletes across the country are losing out on their fall sports seasons as COVID-19 benches their games.

And for seniors, that final closure with a sport you love can mean everything, but for some, grad school may be the ticket to one final ride.

“You can’t really put a price tag on your senior year and that experience you get to have with some of your best friends,” said Dustin Rock, the senior captain of the Castleton University football team.

The bleachers will sit empty this fall as sports at Castleton University continue to have their seasons shortened.

Rock says in March he felt like there was plenty of time.

“Fall sports, we always had time, and time’s been on our side since we got sent home in March. This will be taken care of, and that’s always been what I’ve been thinking, we’ll have time, we’ll be good,” said Rock.

Time kept creeping, leaving Castleton athletes fall seasons on the line.

“It just gets closer and closer to you and impacts you more and more, but as that nine games goes to eight. then seven, then six, now you’re looking at five, it’s upsetting,” said Rock.

Castleton’s athletic conferences, the Little East Conference and the New England Hockey Conference canceled their fall seasons. But they’re looking for other schools to play them, hoping athletes can compete on a very limited schedule.

As long as the student-athletes don’t play more than four games in a season, they’re able to “re-do” senior year, according to NCAA rules. Rock plans to do just that, to get closure on his football career, as well as jump-start him on his master’s degree.

“Though it’s not a full season, I might have the opportunity to come back next year and have that senior season,” said Rylee Nichols, a senior on Castleton’s women’s soccer team.

Nichols says it’s hard watching this year slip away, but being in a five-year athletic training program gives her the opportunity to be back on campus next year to get in a senior campaign. Without that fifth year, she wouldn’t feel any closure.

“If I didn’t, I feel like it would be a completely different situation of being like OK, this is it and this is what it is going to be,” said Nichols.

But under the NCAA rule, student-athletes across the country will get one more shot.

“It motivates me to work hard right now with what I’ve been given and look forward to whatever next year brings,” said Nichols.

Both Rock and Nichols plan to pursue a master’s and use that extra year of eligibility, but they know that taking that extra time isn’t viable for everyone for multiple reasons, and they want nothing but the best for their teammates that can’t return in 2021.

“For everyone on the team that isn’t going to be an option, there are already a couple guys that I know aren’t going to be back which is heartbreaking because those are guys that I came in with, that I want to end my football career with,” said Rock. “You know I want to see them do well in the world and if taking that year off is going to put them in a better place from a professional standpoint, and academics this extra semester, then that’s what I want to see them do because more then anything I want to see them succeed.”

Copyright 2020 WCAX. All rights reserved.

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