Remember the times when we turned solely to local television channels for school closings when it snowed? It wasn’t so long ago that kids stayed superglued to evening news broadcasts and watched the ticker go by in alphabetical order.
For student-athletes playing spring sports locally, the last week and the ones approaching will be a similar game of wait-and-see. Nevertheless, as of now, the season is not canceled.
“Everything is on schedule on our level,” Missouri State High School Sports Association Director of Communications Jason West said at last weekend’s Show-Me Showdown in Springfield. “We have gotten reports that schools are taking precautionary measures once they’re in spring break, and extending it or going online, but right now, we are moving forward with spring sports as scheduled and allowing the schools the ability on a local level so, if they need to make adjustments, they can.”
West and MSHSAA were forced to adapt on the fly with those games held at JQH Arena and the Hammons Student Center. West said at the time, “The biggest consideration [was] that there’s only been two confirmed cases in the state of Missouri and there’s been distance between those two cases … that gave us some leeway to still be playing. Had there still been more confirmed cases or if we find out in the next 30 minutes, with the way this thing is going, we wouldn’t have that latitude we’ve been given.”
The fluidity of the situation is evident in that MSHSAA was first considering further limiting attendance before changing direction and canceling the Class 4 and 5 basketball finals.
Still, West’s comments and MSHSAA’s stance on the upcoming season remain unchanged. Last week, MSHSAA released a press statement that detailed it would not be canceling any spring sport championships. It affirmed that the MSHSAA Office would stay in communication with state and local officials to determine whether to hold the championships either as scheduled or to reschedule them so long as schools are still in session.
“If we are able to maintain locations for hosting the championship series, and schools are wishing to participate in the post season, we will conduct the championships,” MSHSAA Executive Director Kerwin Urhahn said in the statement. “We are not canceling any spring sports at this time!”
It continued to note that if a school has determined that they are closing for a period of time due to COVID-19, no practices or games should occur during that time. If a school is still in session,
then it is the local school’s decision on practices and games.
“This is consistent with our prior efforts to execute a measured response under the guidance of
the appropriate health and governmental authorities,” Urhahn stated.
Just how much of the spring schedule will fall victim to coronavirus precautions remains hard to predict, but as of now, only a modest percentage of games will be shaved off the front of schedules. Marshfield girls track and field, for example, misses meets at Willard (March 20) and Lebanon (April 3), but eight events remain on before the Big 8 Conference meet on May 7. Even an additional week of postponement would allow for plenty of qualifying times.
Those with more games on the slate will still have lots of action if it resumes on April 6 as planned. Lady Jays soccer had five games axed, but should get in at least 15 before districts. Seven games are already canceled for Jays baseball, but 16 still remain, not counting playoffs.
It’s a stark alternative to the state of Kansas, which announced over a week ago that it was canceling sports for the entire spring season.
Basketball finals were not the only casualty. The closure of host venues and facilities connected with colleges and universities affected some MSHSAA district and state series events. MSHSAA made the decision to cancel the remainder of district tournaments, as well as State Speech, Debate and Theatre Championships. That decision was made after two district tournaments could not be completed due to exceeding recommendations regarding the size of gatherings.
For similar reasons, remaining district festivals for both large groups and solo and small ensembles were canceled along with the State Music Festival. MSHSAA said in its statement that “alternative methods of submission were discussed but found to be lacking in consistency and suitability to maintain a valid process.”
As far the Scholar Bowl is concerned, districts are not scheduled to begin until April 18. MSHSAA said it hopes that those tournaments and the state series can be completed, but its status, like the rest of spring activities, remains up in the air.