‘Keep the faith, Flyers:' University of Dayton senior writes letter to fellow athletes

Softball player Mallory Kimmell writes, ‘We have so much to celebrate, even with the shortened school year’

The Dayton Flyers softball team played 14 games this season before the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancellation of the rest of the season.

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For many University of Dayton athletes, COVID-19 ended not only seasons but dreams. Mallory Kimmell, the president of the University of Dayton’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, addressed that and many other issues in a letter to her fellow Dayton Flyers on Friday.

Kimmell, a senior from Cathedral High School in Indianapolis, was hitting .375 when the season ended. Here's the full text of her letter, which was also shared on DaytonFlyers.com:

Dear University of Dayton Student-Athletes,

It has been 10 days since our school has moved to virtual and remote learning. It has been eight days since the NCAA has canceled all national championships for the remainder of the season. Today, President Dr. Eric Spina announced that we will continue learning remotely and not return to campus. To say that we have experienced change and the unexpected would be a gross understatement. It feels the only constant is adjustments and uncertainty. I empathize and can tell you that I too feel the loss and grief that is the remainder of this semester and our seasons. It feels unfinished. It is unfinished.

Of course, this pandemic is altering the lives of the entire world — not just us as student-athletes. I acknowledge that the tough decisions that have been made are for the greater good and necessary at this trying time. I believe that this is what we must lean on in our attempt to reason through our heartbreak. I am hopeful that everyone can try to remain safe and calm in the comfort of their homes alongside our biggest fans – our family.

For underclassmen, the rest of this semester was supposed to be filled with your hard work and dedication. You were supposed to be putting in countless hours on the court or field to impact your performance, which would go on to help your team. Whether in the spotlight or in the personal hours you put in with reps and drills — your efforts are not unnoticed. The discipline and hard work you have brought forth will stay with you and shape you into the person you will be tomorrow. You are not alone as the entire athletic community is grieving with you.

No matter what year you are at UD, I’m sure we all can agree, no one would want any year to be cut short. Each day on this campus is a blessing and one not to be taken for granted. That has never felt truer than now. While I cannot give you back your time or efforts, I can offer you the hope that you will return to the field and stronger at that. With that, I am sorry this year turned out differently than you had planned.

To my fellow seniors, I know you are feeling so much loss. The loss of athletic careers, quality time with the friends and teammates, and most of all the closure for your final year. Your senior year is special. Most would probably say this is the biggest year both in competition and in the classroom. Preparing for your future and possibly playing a sport you have played for the majority of your life for the last time competitively. There are athletes who played their last game without knowing it. Most lost out on their Senior Day, a very special moment for student-athletes. I share these feelings. I understand and am with you through this heartbreak.

To all of the student-athletes competing in winter and spring sports stopped mid-season, we see you and stand with you. The winter sports were reaching the peak of their season, with monumental moments yet to be had and achieved. The spring sports lost the majority of their season and their chance to compete for conference titles. We went from spending nearly every waking hour with our teammates, to all being sent home, dispersed throughout the country.

Even with this great loss we’re feeling, I cannot help but feel grateful and proud to be a part of Dayton Athletics this year and the previous three years. Most of all, I am proud of what the student-athletes were able to accomplish and the leadership and service we have shown. From small to big, the experiences throughout this year made an impact on our community, and Dayton as a whole and that legacy will never die. Here are only some of the large achievements that were accomplished this past school year:

Partnering with UD athletics and the UD Bookstore, seniors Ryan Culhane (Football) and Jules Curry (Softball) led the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee’s Dayton Strong campaign and donated $35,000 to the Dayton Foundation to help victims of the mass shooting in the Oregon District and those rebuilding from the tornadoes that caused destruction to the Miami Valley. This is the most amount SAAC has ever raised in the history of the University of Dayton.

Senior baseball player Tyler Jones created the first Ohio SAAC Symposium in January to collaborate with other student-athletes in the state.

The Dayton men’s basketball team was ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll, the highest in our school’s history. The women’s basketball team won the A-10 regular-season and tournament championships. Volleyball won the A-10 tournament championship.

We have so much to celebrate, even with the shortened school year. The Dayton community has overcome the unimaginable in the past year, each time rising up stronger and more connected than before. We are and we always will be Dayton Strong. Keep the faith, Flyers.

Thank you.

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