ASHLAND – High school athletes across the state of Nebraska have had their spring sports season put on hold.
The Nebraska School Activities announced that all activity practices are suspended through March 30 and all activity competitions are suspended until April 2.
And athletes are coming to the realization that seasons may be cancelled all together.
For Ashland-Greenwood senior and future Wayne State Wildcat Hunter Washburn this spring has been unlike any other.
“It’s honestly just pretty sad. I’m an extrovert so it’s been horrible. But, at the same time, there is nothing you can do about it. I am just taking things one day at time. That’s all you can really do,” said Washburn.
Washburn and the rest of his classmates are relying on social media and video games to bridge the gap during this time of social distancing.
“The last week, it’s been a lot of Facetime and X-Box honestly. It’s one of the only ways to stay in touch with your friends right now,” Washburn added.
Washburn will graduate in May with eight school records after a standout career on the gridiron and the diamond.
Washburn took over under center as a sophomore for Coach Ryan Thompson and the Bluejay football team.
Washburn and the Jays persevered through a 3-6 campaign which included a 66-0 loss to Wahoo and a 69-8 loss to Fairbury.
“Hunter was thrown into the fire his sophomore year where not a lot of things went right. I am proud of him staying the course as he was able to get better each year and be a huge reason for our success,” said Thompson.
The Jays improved as Washburn and his teammates matured physically and mentally in 2018 and 2019.
AGHS finished 8-3 in 2018 and went undefeated through nine games of the regular season last year before losing to Wayne 28-13 in the Class C-1 semifinals.
Washburn threw for 1,763 yards passing and 19 touchdowns last season and added seven more touchdowns on the ground. He also piled up 38 tackles and intercepted three passes on defense from his safety position.
The 1,763 yards passing broke the single season record for passing yards. He also holds the record for passing yards in a career (3,954), completions in a career (285) and in career touchdown passes (45).
“Hunter’s athleticism made him very hard to defend in both the running game and especially in the passing game where he was able to extend plays with his feet constantly,” added Thompson.
Washburn’s on-field success carried over onto the baseball diamond where he started for three years for Coach Shawn Emanuel and the Platte Valley Patriots.
Washburn nearly led the Patriots into the state tournament last spring during a tremendous junior campaign.
The Patriots finished with a record of 9-8 and finished one game short of advancing into the Class B state championship when they were defeated 8-2 by the Elkhorn Antlers.
Washburn had a monster junior season while setting four school records in the process.
Washburn hit .472, stole 19 bases and finished with 28 base hits in 17 games. All school records. He will also leave Ashland-Greenwood High School with a school record 29 career stolen bases.
A few weeks ago, Washburn was grateful for an opportunity to get together with his teammates for what might have been the last time.
Washburn and his Platte Valley teammates were able to get to get together for a weekend scrimmage and it’s something that left an impression on the AGHS senior.
“We were able to get together for some photos in our uniforms and then we were able to get some scrimmaging in. It gave us all a chance to soak up some last memories with the guys,” said Washburn.
Washburn has remained in contact with his Wildcat coaches, but there are a lot of unknowns with the cancellation of the rest of the spring NCAA sports season.
After losing to Wayne in the quarterfinals, Washburn spent the winter training at Xplosive Edge in Elkhorn, adding 10 pounds of muscle.
Washburn added the muscle with the hopes of preparing himself for the rigors of the college baseball season, but at the same time, understands that speed is a major part of his game.
“I have to be able to maintain my speed after adding this extra weight. That is what I am focusing on right now,” Washburn said.
The Wildcats plan on utilizing Washburn’s versatility and playing him a multiple positions and that is fine with the Bluejay senior.
“I’m not picky. I’ll play anywhere. I would love to play some second base, but I am good wherever they want to put me,” Washburn added.