Today’s lesson on trying to look on the bright side comes from Princeton lacrosse senior Arman Medghalchi.
Like so many other athletes, his world abruptly shook in March when the coronavirus shut down his sport. The word came as he was studying before practice. “The first couple of days were just shock,” he was saying. “You really didn’t feel that much, because you couldn’t process.”
Like so many other seniors, he had to deal with the sudden emptiness. He had given his childhood and youth and college years to lacrosse — playing the sport competitively since elementary school — and to have it end like . . . this. “With my family, they have been about the only constants in my life.”
Like so many other members of a successful team, he has had to endure the nagging questions of what if? He had started four years on defense, hoping to take part in a renaissance of Princeton lacrosse. The Tigers once ruled the land, winning six national championships and playing in 20 NCAA tournaments in 23 years. Then came the ice age. No tournament since 2012. Imagine Duke basketball being away that long. Yet, here they were, 5-0 and ranked No.3 in the nation. They had already beaten defending national champion Virginia. Their last game, as it turned out, was a win over neighbor Rutgers. It was the season Medghalchi had longed for — until it wasn’t. “We had three years of maybe a little success but nothing to write home about. And this year we sort of flipped the page and were making a run . . . Everybody thought this was our year, and it was just taken.”
Like with so many other students, everything suddenly stopped for him. He went home to Baltimore, where he stays downtown with his sister, finishing his computer science degree online — rather ironic, wouldn’t you say? — and taking daily laps around the Inner Harbor to fill the hours and keep some structure in his life. “Really long runs that I’ve never done before.”
It is May now, with no NCAA tournament to play, and Princeton’s graduation to be a virtual ceremony. Not exactly the way Medghalchi had planned his final month in college. So what’s a guy to think? Here’s someone trying to make lemonade from this bushel of lemons.
“It’s changed for every athlete in the country, it’s changed for pretty much every person in the country,” he said. “You have to look at the bigger picture, and get over that initial shock.
“It’s definitely been tough adjusting, but you just have to try to change. I always knew lacrosse would end at some point. I obviously would have liked to end it later.”
He tries to make the best of his team’s abbreviated achievements, and his own.
“Although the team will never be together again, you laid the ground work. Everyone’s career has to end at some point. It happened sooner rather than later, but you have to be grateful for the 3 1/2 years you had. We were 5-0 and that can’t really be taken from us.”
He tries to make the best of the experience of this world-rattling spring.
“It’s definitely a life lesson. We’re 5-0 and that shows everything we worked for was for a reason. But then also, it’s sort of a symbol that anything could be taken away from you at any moment. We always talked about taking each day at a time and focusing on the next play and the next day. This was a symbol of that, and a test of how much you really believe in that, because it was, in fact taken from us.”
He tries to make the best of how his teammates are still there, if only via text or phone or computer.
“We have each other. We still talk and go over the memories of the past, and we’re going through it together. It’s definitely easier than if we didn’t have each other.
He tries to make the best of what this team’s legacy will be in Princeton lacrosse.
“It’ll be something to remember. We’re hopefully the only team that has to go through something like that. We’ll always be in the history books as that team that played through a pandemic.”
Medghalchi has a software engineering job lined up in northern Virginia in August, though if the past few months have taught anything to everyone, it’s the future can be really hard to predict. “You never know at this point. Plans can change, but at this point, it’s move on to the professional world and see where that leads me,” he said.
Like so many, his senior season came and went with a blur that he never could have imagined. But, oh, was it fun while it lasted. “There’s nothing we would have changed about the start of that season.”
Wouldn’t mind a different ending, though.