Editor’s Note: For 20 days in April, the Deseret News will profile 20 elite high school athletes from the 2020 graduating class and how they’re coping with the premature end of senior life on and off the field.
GRANTSVILLE — Maddie Peterson was blindsided by the news that all high school sports were being suspended.
By her own admission, Grantsville’s reigning 3A softball MVP rarely paid attention to national current events, and wasn’t aware how serious the situation had become with COVID-19 when the Utah High School Activities Association suspended all high school sports on March 12.
“I won’t lie, I didn’t read a lot of news and was kind of oblivious to the world’s tragedies going on,” said Peterson.
Now, however, the senior reads national and international stories about the pandemic almost daily, hoping to eventually read some good news that gives her hope about the final month of her senior year.
That hope is what keeps Peterson and her teammates — especially the seniors — pushing through their daily individual softball workouts despite no satisfaction of games throughout the week.
“I try and keep a regular schedule of fielding, pitching, hitting sometime throughout the day, and conditioning like the running we’d do at practice,” said Peterson, who’s signed with Weber State. “I try and maintain the same schedule I would in the spring because we practice every day, and if I’m not maintaining that exact same schedule, things will decline and if the season gets reinstated on May 1 I want to be ready to go.”
Before the season was suspended, Grantsville got to play one measly game. It was a 10-1 triumph at Cedar City on March 12, with Grantsville slated to play in the March Warm-up Elite in St. George the next two days.
Peterson picked up the win on the mound that day, and was well on her way to another dominant season. As a junior last year Peterson recorded a 0.913 ERA on the mound and batted .473 from the leadoff spot with a .516 on-base percentage and 10 home runs.
Despite everyone knowing the rest of the weekend’s games were in jeopardy, and perhaps the season, none of that mattered to Grantsville’s players during those seven innings against Cedar City.
“When we were playing and when we were at the fields, it felt like everything else didn’t exist. The coronavirus wasn’t even a thought on our minds. We just went out and played like normal,” said Peterson.
The next morning all Friday games at the March Warm-up were canceled, and Grantsville just hopped on the bus and came home.
Nearly four weeks later, Grantsville’s seniors are clueless if they’ll get a chance at a fourth-straight state championship. Nine teams in state history, including Grantsville from 2017 to 2019, have won three straight title titles. Only two programs though have added additional years to their streaks.
Bingham won four straight titles from 1991 to 1994 and Bear River won five straight from 2008 to 2012.
With numerous starters back from last year’s title team, Grantsville was the clear-cut favorite for the four-peat.
For now, Peterson is settling for hitting off her dad and brother in the batting cages in the backyard, which has been a great source of real-world distraction for the softball-oriented family.
For most of her life, Peterson’s dad Brandon has been her hitting and pitching coach. One of the biggest things he instilled in his daughter at a young age was an even-keeled approach, and that attitude is one of the things Weber State highlighted in the recruiting process.
“My dad taught me that we don’t show attitude, you don’t show disappointment, you don’t really have very many emotions on the field except for excitement and intensity, and so I grew up learning that and when I was being recruited that’s what stuck out to (Weber State),” said Peterson.
Knowing there is college softball helps Peterson keep things in perspective, but it doesn’t take away from the sadness of the situation.
“For me, I am sad that I am losing my senior year kind of, but it does help that these workouts are not just for the high school season, I’m working out to get to get ready for the summer and to get ready for the college and the condition that’s going to come my way so that does give me hope for the future,” said Peterson.
As for high school, she’s holding out hope for one last month on the field and in the classroom. And if that doesn’t happen, she insists there needs to be some type of swan song for the seniors. If it’s just a graduation march down the middle of the street with the seniors all standing six feet apart and families lining the road, then so be it.
That last hurrah, in whatever form it takes, is important to Peterson.