Move-in day at Three Rivers College was mostly typical. The sophomores moved in Wednesday, the freshman the day after, a loosely directed hive of organized chaos as athletes and their families carry assorted personal items, appliances, and furniture up as many as three flights of stairs. “I thought that it was pretty normal. Besides the mask, everything else was normal, and moving in, kids carrying stuff up three flights of stairs,” women’s basketball coach Alex Wiggs said. “They’ve already said, it feels like home. How they can tell it is a family environment, a family atmosphere.
When you are recruiting them, and they can’t come and visit, you try to explain how it is like a big family here ... You can’t really feel that until you get on campus and get to meet everybody.” However, some of those freshmen never had the chance to ever visit campus because of the pandemic. “I’ve seen them, they’ve seen me, but it was my first time meeting a few of them in person, and their parents even,” Wiggs said. “Sending your kids off to college, that’s pretty nerve-wracking anyway. I think once they got here and saw the facilities and met everybody, it put some stuff at ease.”
Women’s basketball player Cameran Martin played for Crest Ridge High School, just five hours away in Centerview, Mo. Because of the timing of when she was recruited, Thursday was the first time she’d seen the school facilities or met Wiggs. She had been relying on pictures and Facetime chats to form her opinions. “I was just hoping that I was going to like it,” said Martin, who was one of three women’s basketball players to have never visited the campus before moving in. “So far, I like it.” After hauling their belongings into the dorms, Martin and teammate Kierra Thornton got the chance, along with their family, to see the Libla Family Sports Complex. Wiggs held the front door open and let the players see the gym first. “You could hear all of them say, ‘Oh my gosh,’” he said. “But then, the reaction of the parents was just as priceless. A facility like this, there’s not many of them out there.
Coming from high school to a junior college, their parents were like; this is awesome. This is what we get to call home for the next two years. We’re lucky, and we’re thankful.” Thornton said her mom, “was amazed.” Added Martin, “It’s so cool walking onto it. Seeing a picture was nothing compared to seeing it, and feeling like, ‘This is where I’m going to be playing ball.’” Ahniya Melton arrived from Auruora, Illinois in the Chicago suburbs on Friday. She, too, hadn’t been to Poplar Bluff before and started to get nervous when she was near miles from town and still driving past farms. Her first stop on campus was the gym and it did not disappoint. “This was nothing like what I expected. It was so much nicer and bigger than what I thought it was going to be,” Melton said. “(The pictures) did not do it justice.”
The baseball team has seven players who were never able to visit because they lived too far away, including international players from Australia and Canada, and a few more who weren’t able to visit because of the coronavirus. “They had some rough flights, but they are glad to get on campus and get used to some stuff,” baseball coach Tyler Smith said. “There’s a lot of excitement in the air whenever you get players here in the fall.” Smith held his first team meeting on the baseball field Thursday night with everyone wearing masks and socially distancing. “It’s always amazing, the kids get here, and they don’t know anybody, and within a week, you can’t tell that they’ve ever not known each other,” he said. While baseball has lots of social distancing built into the sport, Smith said the team will work in groups to avoid large crowds. It will limit the number of players who can use the weight room at any one time, and players will need to bring their own water, in addition to more safety precautions.
Wiggs said masks are also required in the Libla Family Sports Complex when players aren’t practicing. All sports will be performing regular temperature checks and monitoring everyone for any symptoms. Three Rivers is also requiring masks in all buildings, including classrooms. “We’re all excited that we’re going to be able to do stuff and that we’re on campus,” Smith said. “There are some hurdles that we’ll have to jump through, but all things considered, we’re fairly lucky.”
Scott Borkgren - Daily American Republic