This was supposed to be Rachel Glenn’s year, and this was supposed to be her weekend. The crown jewel of Long Beach’s high school sports landscape had spent months dreaming of what she could do at the CIF State Track & Field Championships, originally scheduled for this weekend before the COVID-19 shutdowns wiped most of the Spring schedule away.
Glenn, a senior superstar at Wilson who had already signed a full scholarship to South Carolina, was entering her 12th grade year as a two-time state champion, having won the high jump crown her sophomore year and the 300 hurdles last year (when she also took silver in the HJ).
This year she was the overwhelming favorite in both of those events, as well as the 100 hurdles. Winning two state championships would have given her more than Lashinda Demus, Ebony Collins, or any other Wilson great, and would have tied her with Poly’s Bryshon Nellum for second-most in city history. It’s worth noting that Demus and Nellum were both Olympic medalists–that’s the rare air that Glenn was set to be leaping into this Saturday in Fresno.
As her senior year, such as it is, finishes the process of winding down these next few weekends, Glenn was honest about the disappointment and frustration she’s faced, as well as her mixed emotions as a result of the major disruption.
“It’s so sad, I’m still in the grieving process,” she said. “All of our Snapchat memories from last year keep popping up and I just look at them like, ‘Ugh.’”
She said when she found out on March 13 that school was shutting down, she didn’t think much of it.
“I actually thought at first that it was just because it was raining super hard,” she said. “I thought we’d be right back the next week–we were supposed to have our dual meet with Poly. And instead we’re missing all our senior activities, grad night, prom, all my favorite meets like the Texas Relays, Arcadia, State. I was really looking forward to being on the podium at the State meet.”
Of course, the calendar pages continue to turn, regardless of whether not Glenn and the city’s 5,000 or so other seniors are done processing their emotions or not. For Glenn, that means the August 16 move-in date at South Carolina continues to get closer, and that means she has had to keep up a pretty rigorous workout regimen–that’s difficult in such a detail-oriented sport.
She said that Wilson head coach Neil Nelson and assistant Shannon Fisher have been sending her workouts, and that she and her teammates have been able to find a track that’s open for them to work out at, while practicing social distancing.
“We have a track, a teammate of ours has a weight room in her garage so we’re lifting there, and we’ll find a hill and do hill sprints, so we’re trying to keep it going,” she said. “Our coaches aren’t allowed to be there but they’ll check in on video sometimes and I’ll hear about it if they hear I missed a workout.”
As she’s working out with her fellow seniors, they’ve been talking about how strange their situation is, and already imagining how strange it will be to look back on it.
“We keep saying this is going to be in textbooks,” she said. “Our kids will be reading about it and we’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I lived through that. That was my senior year.’”
There’s no doubt that this senior year is unlike any other. Glenn said that while she and her friends appreciate all the things the school district and community are doing to try to make it special–yard signs, virtual graduation ceremonies, etc–they’re still aware of the magnitude of what they’ve lost.
“It’s a love hate thing,” she said. “I don’t want to say it but I’ll say it–it’s really nice and sweet, but in the back of my head I’m still like, ‘We don’t really have anything.’ But I appreciate the effort, really.”
In the meantime, Glenn and some of her friends are finding ways to make their own strange reality special. She said that with the beaches open, a few of her friends are going to join her on what would have been their graduation to release paper lanterns on the shore.
“I’ve just been accepting that there’s nothing we can do and making the best of it,” she said. “I don’t know why but I was so excited to walk across the stage and get my diploma and throw my cap like in High School Musical. I’m still going to get the diploma and I’m still going to throw my cap, but it’s not going to be the same.”