The entire 2020-21 academic year will include no New York State Public High School Athletic Association championship tournaments.
Will Section II championships meet the same fate?
For now, that’s unclear.
During a quarterly meeting of its executive committee, the NYSPHSAA announced Wednesday with a social-media post that the spring season’s championships won’t be contested. The fall and winter championship tournaments also weren’t held because of concerns related to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“After listening to concerns from the 11 #NYSPHSAA sections, the 11 section executive directors and member schools, the NYSPHSAA officers have approved the cancellation of the 2021 NYSPHSAA Spring Championships,” the NYSPHSAA’s post read, which confirmed that at least some state championships have been canceled in five consecutive seasons.
NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas, in a social-media post, said of the decision to cancel spring championships: “Certainly a difficult decision, however at this time our focus must be on maximum participation of students. Making this announcement now provides schools and Sections with flexibility to appropriately plan & schedule the remaining seasons of the 2020-2021 school year.”
Linda Kranick, who coaches the Saratoga Springs girls’ track and cross country teams with her husband Art Kranick, has seen her storied running program miss out on a variety of championship opportunities in the last year. Wednesday’s decision, though, didn’t surprise her.
“It’s traveling. Hotels. It’s just very difficult,” Linda Kranick said. “You’ve got to remember, me and Art are former science teachers, and we’re following the science. It’s a data-driven decision.”
Still, the loss of spring state championships was another blow for a sports community that has dealt with many of them in the last year.
“I think about [Duke-bound senior] Ana Gold, in particular,” Ballston Spa softball head coach Amanda Fifield said. “She’s definitely not going to get the chance to be a state champion. It’s heartbreaking.”
Meanwhile, Section II hasn’t sponsored any area championship tournaments since the winter season of the 2019-20 school year. In an email to The Daily Gazette, Section II Executive Director Ed Dopp wrote Wednesday that “no decisions have been made” regarding whether Section II will conduct its area championships this spring.
“That decision will come down the road,” Dopp wrote. “We are hopeful that we may be able to have some form of sectionals in the spring.”
As a member of the Section II baseball committee, Shenendehowa baseball head coach Greg Christodulu said the focus is on maximizing local opportunities.
“Why rush things for five teams [sectional champions] to advance to the state playoffs?” Christodulu said. “Why don’t we have more teams — more students — playing more baseball, and focus on that process rather than racing through the regular season in a very condensed schedule to get a state playoff system in?”
Fort Plain baseball coach Craig Phillips is hoping area teams at least get a crack at Section II championships later in the spring.
“I”d like to see them hold sectionals,” said Phillips, who has guided his Hilltoppers to 12 Section II titles, and three in four years before the 2020 spring campaign was erased due to COVID-19 concerns. “I’ve won a lot of league titles, but there’s nothing like sectionals. It’s the culmination of months and months of work.”
Fifield said her team will look to take advantage of whatever opportunity presents itself.
“If we get to have some kind of league championship, we want to go out on top of that,” Fifield said.
On Wednesday, two more counties within the greater Capital Region lowered their respective seven-day rolling averages of coronavirus positivity rate enough to allow for “high” risk winter sports — basketball, cheerleading, ice hockey and wrestling — to start with full-contact practices after they had been on hold for months. Saratoga checked in at 4% and Schoharie was at 3.9%, as those counties joined Schenectady (3.7%) and Warren (3.8%) in the group of counties that are below that threshold in counties requiring that benchmark to be met.
Montgomery (7%) and Rensselaer (4.3%) are above 4% for their respective seven-day rolling averages of coronavirus positivity rate, but those counties did not set a benchmark to be met for that statistic in order to allow “high” risk sports.
IN OTHER NYSPHSAA NEWS
At Wednesday’s meeting, the executive committee approved the following championship venues: Visions FCU Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton (2021-2023), for game day cheerleading West Regional Championships; Arlington High School (2021-2023) for game day cheerleading East Regional Championships; Times Union Center in Albany (2023-2025), for individual wrestling championships; Gore/North Creek (2022), Bristol/Harriett Hollister (2023) and Whiteface/Mt. Van Hoevenberg (2024), for boys’ and girls’ Skiing Championships; and, Visions FCU Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton (2023-2025), for competitive cheerleading championships.
Among other items, the executive committee also approved adding the language “including racial or discriminatory comments or slurs” to the sportsmanship officials card that is read at the beginning of each athletic contest.
The committee’s next meeting is set for May 5.