Friday, March 13.

That was the last time an article was published in The Gazette of a sporting event that I covered. It also was the last time that my sports section would see five whole pages of coverage. It was the start of my spring sports previews and I featured the baseball and softball team photos and stories along with the schedules for the entire spring sports season.

I also had game stories from middle school baseball, girls soccer and boys soccer. There were stories and pictures of the scrimmages for the boys and girls tennis teams as well as stories from JV and varsity softball scrimmages against Dan River.

It’s been 95 days since that paper came out — 13 weeks and four days, 136,800 minutes or 8,208,000 seconds, 25.96% of the year 2020. As I looked back at that paper it is hard to imagine that it was that long ago we began this hiatus of sports in Halifax County.

Since that paper was published, several of the student athletes I covered in that issue have graduated high school or have moved from the middle school to the high school. This was my first spring sports season as the sports writer for The Gazette and I was really looking forward to forming the relationships with the spring sports student athletes and coaches.

But COVID-19 had other plans for me, and they included continuing to put out a sports section three times a week ever since. That’s 40 issues with no games to cover. Not an easy task for a one-man sports department. I applaud all the sports writers all over the country who have had to deal with the same unknowns that I have over the last three months and especially to those one-man sports departments.

There have been a lot of positives that have come out of this situation though. During a normal sports season there isn’t much time to write feature stories on the student athletes or coaches. I think in the first three months I was here I did one feature story. That’s because there isn’t time when the season is in full swing. Nearly every night I am usually at some sort of game and the next day is spent writing about the game I covered and getting in touch with the coaches of games that I was unable to attend to get information and quotes to make sure I don’t leave anyone out.

Being able to have the time to research things like the 1984 state championship baseball team has been fun. Going through the old papers and talking to those players and reliving that season through their eyes was a unique experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.

I also was able to talk to every senior spring sports student athlete individually as well as their head coach and some assistant coaches to allow them to have their voices heard about what those sports meant to them and the feelings they had over losing their final season of high school sports. That is something I know I will probably never be able to do again when things return to normal.

I was able to speak to and feature several student athletes from different sports at Halifax County High School who are either going to play college sports or those excelling at the high school level.

Talking to these student athletes, their coaches and families has been such a great experience that a sports writer in a one-man department isn’t able to do a lot of the time.

I have met and established relationships with so many new people throughout these 95 days that I may well have never established had things gone on as normal.

The other day I felt something I had not felt in many months and that was a sense that things were slowly getting back to normal. I had the Troy Nation softball tournament over the weekend, the governor and VHSL have both released information that hints at high school sports returning with out-of-season practice beginning and Dixie Youth baseball and softball are set to return in one week. I felt that I may be at some sort of high school practice soon and if I felt this excited. I cannot imagine what the players and coaches are feeling.

So even though it has been a unique challenge that I was met with only three months into my job, as I sit here six months in I am more motivated than ever to continue to provide Halifax County with the best sports coverage each and every issue and to continue to highlight those student athletes across all sports that deserve the recognition.

Johnathan Kirland is a sports writer for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact him jkirkland@gazettevirginian.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnathanK_GV