By Logan Brandon • Sports Editor • 

A new perspective

Olivia Southard fires a three-pointer against Amity during the condensed girls basketball season in May 2021.
Olivia Southard fires a three-pointer against Amity during the condensed girls basketball season in May 2021.

Southard’s sophomore track and field season two years ago was wiped out by the emergence of the coronavirus. With heavy restrictions on in-person gatherings still in place late in 2020, she wasn’t able to return to athletics until the condensed seasons began in March 2021.

During her lengthy break from sports, Southard’s perspective changed, she said.

“COVID gave me a deeper appreciation of every sport,” explained Southard. “I love sports, and I realized playing sports is a privilege.”

As a multi-sport competitor, Southard played a pivotal role on the Y-C soccer, basketball and track and field teams.

In the classroom, she was just as successful. Southard graduated as one of four valedictorians during Y-C’s June 12 ceremony.

Once she realized her in-person education and athletic participation were delayed, Southard actively sought new opportunities.

Two years ago, as wildfires raged across the state, Southard enrolled as a volunteer firefighter with the Yamhill Fire Protection District.

She assisted workers at the Yamhill County Fairgrounds in September 2020. Southard fed and cared for the many displaced animals boarded at the fairgrounds.

Becoming a firefighter served as the ideal bridge between athletic seasons, she said.

“COVID may have taken sports from me, but it gave me a chance to become a volunteer firefighter. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” noted Southard. “I was able to be a part of a team again.”

Joining Yamhill Fire was only one of the ways Southard occupied her time. She also applied for her first job, earning a role with an equine veterinary service.

“For many people, I know the pandemic has shut them down, but it added things to my life,” said Southard.

When Southard finally returned to sports in early 2021, she had to acclimate herself to the restrictions ordered by the Governor’s Office and the Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA). She described the condensed seasons as “go, go, go!”

In soccer, Southard found OSAA’s masking rule untenable.

“We had to be masked up at all times, which was awful and disgusting,” she said. “No one should have to do that.”

Asked about her on-field performance while wearing a mask, Southard confessed she couldn’t breathe very well, and added, “I just wasn’t as focused while wearing it.”

Regarding the virus, Southard believes she may have encountered it during her sophomore basketball season. Many Tiger players were limited for weeks at a time with an unknown illness, she said, and those who went to the hospital didn’t receive any answers on their ailment.

“I’m pretty sure our whole team had it,” she noted.

In reflection, Southard viewed OSAA’s handling of the virus and high school sports as “understandable, but it wasn’t very organized.”

She added, “I understand why they handled it like they did, but it sucked we couldn’t play official seasons. It was very strange.”

Still, Southard commended her school district and the high school’s athletic staff for working overtime to ensure competitions could be played.

“I want to thank my school for trying to make everything normal for us in classes and sports,” said Southard.

Southard’s Y-C athletic career continued after her graduation, as she represented the Tigers at last weekend’s Senior All-Star Game at Corban University. Southard and the West roster won both its games against the East and North squads.

This fall, Southard will study at George Fox University.

She’s also hoping to play her favorite sport with the Bruins.

“Basketball is my baby,” she noted with a laugh.

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