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Ari Esparza had already shifted to doing her school work online. So the newly-imposed distance learning plans at schools across the state was nothing new to Esparza.

It was the other impact that crushed the Charles Page High School senior.

“Well I was already doing online school so I don’t miss it much,” Esparza said. “I honestly only miss the soccer part.”

Esparza is much like every other senior athlete across Oklahoma. Sports were ripped away from them when the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association canceled all remaining athletic events for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year, due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And all Esparza wanted to do was play some soccer.

“It really sucks not being able to play soccer right now and getting to enjoy that feeling when you play,” she said.

The Sandites were 2-1 when the plug was pulled on soccer. But more than any kind of successes that may have lied ahead for Sand Springs, it’s the general sense of not playing that is upsetting to Esparza.

“It is very devastating knowing I won’t ever step foot on that field again with my team,” Esparza said. “I didn’t expect for it to end like this, and it is all very upsetting to me.”

Luckily for Esparza, her soccer career isn’t over. She recently signed with Seminole State College, and she’s been doing her best to stay in playing shape.

“I’ve been training by myself getting ready for college,” Esparza said. “I run almost every day, and I have a goal in my backyard so I just practice by myself or with my brother.”

Demi Deshazo can’t help but shake the massive void in her life.

“My senior year just feels incomplete,” said the Charles Page High School senior. “I had so many great memories with my friends and I’ve grown so much in this short time. But I can’t help but feel like there’s so much missing.”

Students all across Oklahoma went on spring break in mid March and then in many cases most didn’t return to a classroom. The state started shuttering most educational operations inside school facilities, instead shifting to distance learning while providing come-and-go meals during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In cases like Deshazo’s, there’s just the empty feeling that she can’t shake.

“The last semester of high school is the finale of the 12 years of work we put in to get there and we didn’t get that full experience,” she said. “I will always miss not getting to make those memories with my classmates, but I’m even more thankful for the ones I did get to make.”

But Deshazo, there’s also the feeling of missing out on soccer. All spring sports were halted — and then canceled — by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association in an attempt to keep athletes and fans from contracting the virus that has proven to be contagious.

“Honestly, it’s been really hard not having that outlet in my life,” Deshazo said. “Soccer is how I deal with a lot of stress and emotions, so I’ve been having to find other ways to do that. I miss it more than anything else.”

Knowing soccer is no longer an option the rest of her high school career is just crushing to Deshazo.

“When I first found out the season was cancelled, I was in shock,” Deshazo said. “Later is when the reality hit me that I don’t get a senior season or those special last year memories with my best friends for the last four years.”

The absence of school also provided Deshazo with a startling reality.

“I never thought I would say this, but I genuinely miss going to school,” she said. “I had so many good times there with my friends, and I really miss my favorite teachers that made every day worth it.”

She also singled out two teachers in particular that wanted to offer her gratitude to.

“I want to give a special thanks to Mr. Price and Mrs. Roulet for always motivating me and believing in me,” Deshazo said. “You have no idea the impact y’all have made on me.”

Now Deshazo will shift her focus to getting ready for soccer at the college level. She recently signed her letter of intent to play at Southwestern Christian University in Bethany. She also said she plans on majoring in psychology to later become a therapist.

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