Although it has long since past, the lingering effects from the June 1st tornado that ripped through Springfield are still being felt around the city. Despite taking a heavy toll to a portion of campus, Springfield College escaped the worst of nature’s wrecking ball. Cathedral High School was not as lucky.
Before the beginning of June, Cathedral was located at 260 Surrey Road in Springfield, which is just under two miles away from the main campus of SC. In one fell swoop, the high school, which was founded in 1883, no longer had a home or a place for athletics.
“Our school was totally destroyed in the tornado,” first-year Athletic Director Joseph Hegarty said. “Our fields have been taken over by FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] …we lost all our [sporting] equipment and uniforms, so we’re pretty much starting from scratch.”
Hegarty took over as athletic director at Cathedral in July, the month after the devastating tornado took its toll. His goal was to make sure that the sports teams were ready for the fall season, which included getting equipment, uniforms and space to practice and hold “home” games.
“This summer, there were a lot of questions,” Hegarty said. “We didn’t know where we were going to be, if we were going to have a building or not, what we were going to do.”
To fulfill their need of a space to hold practices and some games, Hegarty and Cathedral High School turned to a trusted relationship and contacted SC to request the use of several athletic facilities.
“The relationship [with Cathedral] has been there well before I became AD, when I was the associate and working with Dr. Ed Billick,” SC Athletic Director Cathie Schweitzer said.
In the past, SC has lent the use of their facilities to Cathedral a few times throughout the school year in isolated circumstances, such as if there was a leak in Cathedral’s gym.
SC tries to accommodate all of the high schools in the surrounding area that send them requests to use athletic facilities. This time, however, it was different. With the loss of their building and athletic facilities, Cathedral was forced to move temporarily for the first time since 1959 to a middle school in Wilbraham until they can find or build a permanent home.
Unfortunately for the sports programs, the middle school they are now located at does not have any indoor or outdoor space designated for sports. The tornado also cost the school all of their sporting equipment and supplies.
“You can imagine starting an entire high school program with not even a basketball to start with,” Hegarty said.
In order to continue their sports programs for this school year, Cathedral had to reach out for help from several colleges in the area, including SC, especially for their fall soccer season.
“Boy’s soccer was our big thing where we didn’t really have a home field for them,” Hegarty said.
According to Schweitzer, Kathy Smith, who is the director of conferences and special events in the Office of Special Programs, worked with Cathedral to make accommodations for their requests.
“Whenever there’s a catastrophe or an unusual event that happens that forces people out of their venue, we try to help them out,” Schweitzer said.
According to Hegarty, with the facilities allotted to them, Cathedral’s boy’s soccer team was able to hold several games at SC.
In December, Hegarty and Cathedral also requested the use of some space for their boy’s basketball team to practice. Once again, SC was willing and able to help.
“It was a no-brainer for us to accommodate [Cathedral] for basketball in terms of the tornado,” Schweitzer said. “It’s about community, reaching out and helping one another.”
In addition to helping out Cathedral’s boy’s soccer and basketball teams, SC gave Cathedral the opportunity to host their Thanksgiving Day football game at the college.
Together with the help of other colleges in the area such as American International College and Elms College, SC was able to lend a helping hand to get Cathedral’s sports program back on its feet.
Despite not having a home field, Hegarty believes Cathedral’s athletes have responded well to the setback.
“It’s obviously tough to not have a home field, but they are coping well with it. It’s been difficult communication and transportation-wise,” Hegarty said. “But the kids who are out there, they’ve played really hard whether they had a home field or not.”
There have yet to be any major scheduling issues, but Schweitzer knows that after SC students return from the holiday break, it could become much more difficult to strike a balance in January and February because spring sports begin at the college.
“There are spaces [in the schedule] that we try to accommodate without putting our own students out. We also want to make sure that we have space for our students to be able to recreate and shoot open hoops,” Schweitzer said. “We’re trying to balance their requests, their needs, and balance the needs of our own students.”
That balance will be key as Schweitzer and SC works with Cathedral in a continuing effort to support the high school’s sports programs throughout the upcoming months. The situation is far from ideal for Cathedral, but with help from their collegiate friends, they are pressing on.
“It’s been a difficult transition, but we’re making it work,” Hegarty said. “I think for the kids, that’s important that they’re able to keep on with their athletics.”
Joe Brown may be reached firstname.lastname@example.org