LAWRENCE — Of all the collateral, machete-like damage that the coronavirus has done to our local sports scene, no one represents that damage better than Lawrence High senior Gregory Duran.
Duran was voted the Lawrence boys captain by his peers. He was looking forward to this winter season as his stamp on the school’s premier program after being more of a “hustle guy” and “shutdown defender” as a junior.
This was his year. He was one of two go-to guys on offense. He was the team leader. This was the year he showed New England’s best Division 3 colleges he would be a worthy recruit.
While the rest of the Merrimack Valley Conference winter sports schedule is officially off and running, Lawrence High has shut down its sports programs and really all extra-curricular activities.
Bad stats, apparently.
Lawrence is a “nuclear” zone when it comes to the virus and positive tests, just under 20 percent (1 in 5) over a 14-day testing period, the highest in the Commonwealth.
While Methuen (12.12%) and Haverhill (10.73%) are among the top 20 percent in the state, considered “hot zones,” they are able to play winter sports.
Lawrence schools have been remote since September with hopes of getting back some semblance of a hybrid program next week.
It was everything
“Tough? You don’t even know how tough,” said Duran. “This was everything I worked for. This was everything we, as a team, worked for. I started working out the day after we lost to Lynn (English) in the state tourney last year.”
Duran’s story is great one. He came here from the Dominican Republic as an 8-year-old through his middle school years before moving back to the D.R.
Two years later, as a sophomore he returned to Lawrence High as a sophomore.
“He could barely get off the bench on the JV team,” recalled Lawrence High boys coach Jesus “Moose” Moore. “He’s come a long way. This off-season he really worked his butt off.
“Gregory’s a different player, more confident and a key guy after being a role player last year. He had a chance to be an All-League guy this year. I hurt right now for people like Gregory.”
This week was the opening week for winter sports at all of the other MVC schools. There were boys and girls hockey games on Monday night and boys and girls basketball games on Tuesday night.
Painful to watch
Duran had planned to stay in and watch the Andover High-Central Catholic boys opener on Tuesday night via livestream on YouTube.
He started to watch. But about five minutes into the game he had had enough.
“I started to watch it and then it hit me,” said Duran. “It hit me that we really aren’t playing. I had to get out of the house and do something. So I went to work out.”
Lawrence High athletic director Brendan Neilon says, like everyone else at the school and really in the city, he feels horrible at the prospects of his athletes not playing over the next six weeks and beyond.
“I don’t have any answers right now if there will be a season. It stinks,” said Neilon. “We are on hold until the numbers trend the other way. I know everyone is concerned with games and everything, but I just want the kids back to practicing.
“Just getting kids to practice and being around each other. Those are the times you remember most, joking around every day, being around you buddies. We need to get to that first.”
Central playing, why not Lawrence?
One issue is Central Catholic, which is in Lawrence, has been able to play. The only prerequisite in the MVC is that they play all road games, due to the high testing numbers in the city.
Neilon is awaiting word from above, including school principals and Superintendent Cynthia Paris.
Duran will be waiting, too.
“I understand there are a lot of things going on, but I wish they’d look at it from our side, the kids’ side,” said Duran. “We just want to play. Let us play.”