The sign posted under the scoreboard in the Columbus North main gymnasium Monday, the one drawing all the attention, basically was asking everyone to unify their prayers and hopes for critically injured senior basketball star Josh Speidel.
“#JoshStrong” reminded us that Speidel was fighting for his life in the intensive care unit at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis a day after his serious auto accident at U.S. 31 and Bear Lane near Taylorsville.
But along one side of the gym, hanging over the bleachers, was another sign that, in this case, had to be just as important. It is a sign that hangs there each and every day.
As students made their way through the gym, going about their duties of everyday life despite the overwhelming burden of bad news, they were trying to believe that Speidel was going to be OK.
It was a belief that drove Speidel’s parents, Dave and Lisa, as they clung to their son’s every movement at the hospital Monday. As Lisa Speidel talked about her son’s condition, listed as critical but stable, you could feel the strength that belief can provide.
A few days ago, their main worries had to be North’s pursuit of a sectional championship and, perhaps down the road, adjusting to life with their wonderful son who was off to college at Vermont.
As day turned into night Monday, the Speidels just wanted their son to open his eyes, to say something so they could hear his voice.
The Columbus community as a whole tried to gather the Speidels in their collective arms, as a stream of support washed over the intensive care unit in the form of visitors, calls and messages. It was a team effort that Lisa Speidel said, “Blew us away.”
Back at the North gym, North’s basketball players had assembled with their world rearranged from 24 hours earlier.
Games and scores and results were no longer a driving force.
An “awfully numb” Jason Speer walked through a hallway late Monday afternoon, pausing for a moment while trying to figure out ways to guide his shocked basketball players.
His coaching duties had veered off from performance and strategy and without warning launched into life-lessons mode.
“Our definition of success has changed,” Speer said softly before going into the gym to speak with his players. “I knew we would be challenged this season, but not like this. I do know our guys are ready to take care of each other.”
As if the Bull Dogs didn’t have enough heartache to overcome, the team received news Monday that senior wing Trent Larson, one of the team’s driving forces, has torn knee ligaments. His high school career is finished.
Trying to process that information with Speidel fighting for his life was virtually impossible.
“I don’t think any of this has set in yet,” said North senior guard Vince Grana. “Our friend is in the hospital, and our other friend’s career is finished. It is unfathomable.”
North senior wing Kooper Glick also was shaken. “I feel helpless,” Glick said. “There is nothing you can do. With Josh, it’s got to be about getting healthy, step by step.”
The next step for North’s players is a benefit dinner for Speidel today at 5 p.m. in the Columbus North cafeteria. The community has been asked to attend to show its support. Then North will host a game against Hamilton Southeastern at 7:30 p.m.
“As seniors, we just have to be really positive,” Grana said. “It might be as simple as doing more high-fiving than usual.”
“We’re playing for each other,” Glick said. “We know that Josh and Trent would want that. This is what we love.”
Speer will be there to guide them along what should be a very tough road.
“We will pull through this,” he said, disappearing through the gymnasium doors.
You can believe it.
Jay Heater is the Republic sports editor. He can be reached at [email protected] or 379-5632.