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Winter high school championships postponed amid COVID-19 concerns

Winter high school championships postponed amid COVID-19 concerns

State-level games 'postponed indefinitely'
Winter high school championships postponed amid COVID-19 concerns
Mekeel head coach Chad Bowman during a Section II Class A championships game at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls.
Photographer: Erica Miller

SCOTIA — Mekeel Christian Academy head coach Chad Bowman was less than a minute away from showing his players film of the Lions' upcoming opponent, Syracuse's Christian Brothers Academy, in the boys' basketball East Regional at Hudson Valley Community College.

He hadn't checked his email in the last 15 minutes, though, as school let out and his practice was set to start — and things changed that fast around the sports world Thursday.

His earlier email from state officials notified him that the Lions were going to be playing in front of an empty gymnasium as the state mandated that spectators would not be allowed on Saturday afternoon, as concerns grew over the spread of COVID-19. He didn't initially see the follow-up email announcing that all remaining winter regionals and championships had been postponed indefinitely.

"It's quite a shock. It's a shock to everybody," Bowman said after informing his players. "We spent a week preparing with the intent.

"It's been a weird week of prep because the last 72 hours have been so fluid and it wasn't even a snowball effect. It was an explosion of reaction."

The one that mattered to area high school teams still playing their winter seasons came from NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas on Twitter: "I had to make the difficult decision today to postpone the NYSPHSAA winter championships. It has become increasingly more difficult to host these championship events in a manner that would serve as a quality & beneficial participation experience for our student-athletes."

In the ensuing press release, NYSPHSAA used the term "postponed indefinitely," which gave Bowman some hope.

"How great would it be when things return to normalcy to have a tournament to look forward to?" Bowman said. "If it's clear, it's safe and it's healthy, it would make sense.

"You've got kids, you've got teams, you have coaches and families that would certainly want to have that tournament, so you could have it with the eight remaining teams," he said. "After 9/11 when the Yankees finally played, it was awesome.

"You could still do that, but there are so many unknowns. We don't know if it's going to be weeks, months or go into the summer."

While Bowman held out hope, the Shenendehowa Athletics Department sent out a photo of its boys and girls Section II championship teams, both scheduled to play Saturday, stating: "Their seasons come to an abrupt end today. What a ride it has been for these teams…Heartbreaking for our Seniors…"

When reached by phone, Plainsmen athletic director Chris Culnan clarified the near future and it's murky future possibilities.

"We took it as its postponed indefinitely. We don't really know what that means, but we aren't going to be playing basketball this weekend and we aren't going to be playing basketball next weekend," Culnan said. "If NYSPHSAA calls us back and says in a few months that they're going to play, we're going to cross that bridge and see what we have to do." 

There was no clear deadline for the possibility of the winter championships to be held.

"There has not been a date set for how long the postponement could last," NYSPHSAA director of communications Chris Watson said in a text message. "We are hopeful we can still play the rest of the championships."

"I don't know that I've ever seen a more fluid situation," Section II executive director Ed Dopp said. "I mean, it's one thing for things to change from day to day. This is almost changing hourly."

Meanwhile, the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball have postponed their respective seasons, and the NCAA winter and spring championships, which includes the men's and women's basketball tournaments, were canceled. The ripple effect continued as major college conferences announced cancellations to their spring seasons.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the New Balance Indoor Nationals, affecting more than 20 individual athletes and 12 relay teams from Section II.

The individuals and relays were invited to the event at New Balance Track and Field Center at The Armory in New York this weekend. The competitors are all high school athletes competing as a track club or as an individual.

"I'm really disappointed, and the kids are down," Shenendehowa girls' indoor track coach Rob Cloutier said. "We have had an amazing few weeks of preparation. These girls are razor sharp and know they could win or even approach national records."

The state has not made any decisions for the spring high school sports season.

At Amsterdam High School, a notice was delivered on Facebook stating that the baseball team's trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has been canceled, and that all spring sports at this time will go on as usual, but will be reviewed going forward.

The Broadalbin-Perth baseball team tweeted late Thursday night that it was canceling its Myrtle Beach trip, too.

Reach Stan Hudy at [email protected] or @StanHudy on Twitter.

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