It was during her freshman year that Cinco Ranch senior Sophie Atkinson was dealt an awakening of sorts.
A metatarsal fracture limited Atkinson to two cross country meets during that year. Then she suffered a stress fracture to another metatarsal on the same foot that wiped out her track season.
But after eventually coming to terms with the devastation of two setbacks within months of each other, Atkinson found a wat to move forward. She leaned on her faith. Her focus turned to becoming a better teammate. And, most importantly, she realized there was a lot more to her life than running.
The last year has been quite a ride for Cinco Ranch senior runner Heidi Nielson.
A femur injury sidelined her high school cross country season after an exhausting summer representing Team USA at the Pan Am U20 Championships. Then the novel coronavirus COVID-19 abruptly shortened her track season in mid-March. The global pandemic also hindered Nielson’s recruiting, as she was unable to make visits to colleges or compete in significant events.
“It really sucked,” Nielson said. “The cross country season, I get hurt, and it was like, ‘Welp, there it goes.’ I was still hyped, I was really ready for the track season, and then everything gets shut down. I was so sad. Even now, I’m still, like, ugh.”
Still, it all worked out. A star distance runner since her eye-opening freshman season for the Cougars, Nielson verbally committed to continue her athletic career at Arkansas in an Instagram pledge on Sept. 9.
At barely 20 years old, Katie Becker is no stranger to life-altering adversity.
During her freshman season at the University of Texas-San Antonio in 2018, Becker was forced to medically retire from playing soccer seven games into her collegiate career. After having four concussions as a first-team all-district standout at Cinco Ranch High, she had another during a match against Rice in Houston on Sept. 23, 2018. Doctors and coaches determined that another concussion could lead to brain damage.
And while it was difficult to give up her first true love—Becker began playing soccer when she was five years old, helped Cinco Ranch to two state tournament appearances in high school and earned a scholarship to compete at the NCAA Division I level —it was nothing compared to what she faced a little more than two years later.
Due to the restructuring of the UIL 2020 high school football season caused by the novel coronavirus COVID-19, Katy ISD’s nine head coaches spent the last month or so revising their schedules.
Some programs, such as Katy and Tompkins, still have holes to fill on their schedules. But otherwise, the primary change is moving up district games earlier to get those done—as it is the district season that determines playoff qualifiers—and splitting the four non-district games for the district’s seven Class 6A programs, two for Weeks 1 and 2 and two more, if possible, to close the season.
In Class 5A-Division I, where Paetow resides, nine-team District 10-5A will split into zones for the upcoming season. Paetow will be in Zone A with Richmond Foster, Kempner, Rosenberg Terry and Houston Wisdom. Zone B consists of of Angleton, Hightower, Manvel and Milby.
Cinco Ranch junior offensive lineman Ethan Onianwa recently verbally committed to Rice. It was somewhat of a surprise, considering Onianwa only has 10 games of varsity football under his belt and his recruiting process was stunted by restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19.
“The current coronavirus outbreak affected my recruiting experience a lot,” Onianwa said. “Due to the current epidemic, I wasn’t able to visit colleges and have coaches come to our spring practices. It most definitely made it harder to learn about programs from the players and coaches there.”
COVID-19 prevented college coaches from going on the road to recruit and closed campuses, which disallowed visits by recruits. It also canceled spring football, a time of the year when college coaches can visit high school campuses to watch practices and talk to high school coaches about players.
Still, Onianwa was able to secure his future in a sport he only started taking seriously in middle school, in large part because he’s a tantalizing physical prospect. Onianwa stands 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds. He’s also only 16 years old.