California High School Spring Sports canceled because of coronavirus.
With campuses unlikely to open until summer, California Interscholastic Federation calls off regular season, playoffs
High school spring sports in California are over.
After a conference call Friday morning that spilled into the afternoon, the California Interscholastic Federation’s 10 section commissioners canceled spring sports because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision was no surprise after recent statements by Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond indicated campuses will be closed until summer, with distance learning planned for the rest of the school year.
The CIF does not see “an avenue for the spring sports season to continue,” Executive Director Ron Nocetti said in a statement. “As such, in consultation today with the 10 section commissioners, the decision has been made to cancel spring section, regional and state championship events.
“We understand this is disappointing for everyone involved in education-based athletics and empathize with our student-athletes and all who are impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. As always, our top priority is everyone’s ongoing health and safety during this challenging time, and we all look forward to the day when education-based athletics resumes.”
The decision by the CIF, the state’s governing body for high school athletics, affects all 3,892 California high schools, of which about 125 are in the San Diego Section.
It hits thousands of local athletes competing in the spring sports of baseball, softball, boys and girls track, boys and girls swimming, boys tennis, boys golf, boys volleyball, badminton, gymnastics and boys and girls lacrosse.
About 10 states have officially canceled high school spring sports, according to MaxPreps. More are expected to follow as campuses remain closed.
“Based on statements by the governor and the superintendent, we didn’t see any other avenue but to cancel everything,” said San Diego Section Commissioner Jerry Schniepp. “We would have loved for it to be different, but if schools are closed, we can’t have sports.
“The governor’s expectation of all online classes made it very clear what we needed to do.”
The San Diego Unified School District, the largest in the county, has 16 high schools that fully participate in athletics.
San Diego Unified will go to distance learning on Monday.
“We were headed to cancellation, but this announcement gives it a little more finality,” said Scott Giusti, director of PE, health and interscholastic sports for San Diego Unified. “If you’re not physically in school, you can’t have athletics.”
Robert Lovato coaches baseball at Madison and also teaches biology and physiology.
While he can’t meet with his team or tend to his field, he has been busy preparing online classes for his students.
“I’m so sad. I feel so bad for everybody,” Lovato said. “With that said, our officials are looking out for the health and safety of our students.
“These are tough times. There are seven families on my cul de sac, and we’re all teachers. We’re all doing what we need to do to help.
“I’m sorry for the seniors that they won’t get the opportunity to finish their seasons. I’m getting texts from my players, and it’s breaking my heart.”
Todd Cassen, executive director for learning support services for the Poway Unified School District, has a daughter, Haylee, who is a freshman lacrosse player at San Marcos.
“And she’s crushed her season is over,” Cassen said.
Cassen will assume the position of assistant commissioner for the San Diego Section on July 6.
By July, spring seasons would have been over, champions crowned and players of the year named.
“Two weeks ago, we were in class getting ready for spring break and now all the good things about senior year are gone,” said Nolan Mitruka, a senior boys volleyball player at La Jolla High. “It sort of ended on a spontaneous note. Our team played in a tournament in Hawaii, so at least we got to do that.
“I got no final goodbyes with teammates after the last game and with my friends after graduation.”
Most teams played fewer than 10 games before competition was stopped.
Track, swimming and golf barely had time to warm up. Most of the big meets were still to be contested.
“In a weird way, as the only senior on my team, it’s good only one of us has to go through this,” said Halle Woodhall, a softball player at Torrey Pines.
“When they closed school, I had a full-blown meltdown because softball went away, Senior Night went away, prom went away, graduation went away. It’s like I’m watching a bad movie. Everything was yanked away from us seniors with no warning.”
Casey Sovacool is the boys golf coach at La Costa Canyon, the defending state champion, and also the defensive coordinator for the Mavericks football team.
“I was pretty hopeful that golf, being such a distance sport if you will, would potentially be on the front lines of returning, if sports potentially did return,” Sovacool said.
“It has been really wild. I feel terrible for the senior golfers in the county who unfortunately won’t get their chance to play another season. They’ll also miss out on cool events such as prom.
“As for the younger players, when normal life does resume, how does this gap year affect them? Some are taking Advance Placement courses, and there’s an effect academically.
“I guess I’ll hold a Zoom banquet because I definitely want to recognize those senior athletes for their commitment to the program.”
As co-director of the San Diego Section swim championships for the last 30 years, Mike Saltzstein knows something about commitment.
“I’m disappointed and upset the seniors have no place to cap a career of high school sports,” Saltzstein said. “They put their all into something for many years and didn’t have that appropriate end.
“It has always been a joy to have a chance to put something on so that athletes have a chance to be recognized for what they’ve done and coaches have a place for their work to shine through.”
Joe Heinz is coordinator of athletics for the Sweetwater Union High School District and will assume the role of San Diego Section commissioner on July 6.
“We all held out hope something could be salvaged,” Heinz said. “But the window is now closed.
“And it’s so sad for the seniors and their families. There is a lot of lost opportunities.”
Freelance writers Terry Monahan and Glae Thien contributed to this report.