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High schools: Section II targets April 19 for start of spring competition

High schools: Section II targets April 19 for start of spring competition

'It is a local school decision whether or not they can continue, [and] scrimmage among themselves'
High schools: Section II targets April 19 for start of spring competition
Ballston Spa head coach Amanda Fifield leads the charge from the dugout after her team beat South Glens Falls in a game in June.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

Spring sports contests in Section II are now the latest in a long list of events affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, with all competition postponed until April 19.

Section II Athletics executive director Ed Dopp issued an email to all 97 athletic directors informing them that all scrimmages, non-league games and league contests would be suspended until mid-April.

"Monday would be the first day any spring teams could actually be eligible to scrimmage or play because of the required number of practices," Dopp said. "It is a local school decision whether or not they can continue, [and] scrimmage among themselves. All we did was shut down scrimmages, non-league or league contests to try to stop spreading the virus."

The length of the non-competitive spring sports ban was chosen by the section.

"We put that in because we know the week before is a common vacation week," Dopp said. "We thought that would at least put everybody on the same page."

On Friday, the Ballston Spa softball team was able to practice outside and is making plans through the April 19 date.

"Our intent is to do our everyday practices and luckily our JV team is with us," Scotties coach Amanda Fifield said. "We have a veteran team this year and a veteran JV team, so we've got numbers to help us try to do intrasquad stuff."

Also on Friday, the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, Schenectady, Shenendehowa, and Schalmont  school districts as well as Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons announced a one-week closure. The  Albany School District announced a two-week shutdown.

For some schools, that also means no practices.

"We are out of school next week, [so] no school, no practices, just like a snow day," Schenectady athletic director Steve Boynton said.

Staying sharp

Ballston Spa was not one of the closed campuses, but Fifield is ready if that happens.

"I do a lot of online stuff with my team -- mental part of the game and film, so I will be spending some time in that event, much like teachers are preparing for the closures," Fifield said.

She is also instructing her players to be safe and work out on their own if there is a practice ban.

"I am reiterating to my players to make sure they are following appropriate hygiene, washing their hands and I am kind of discouraging them from going to some of the public indoor facilities for a little while," Fifield said. "A lot of them have stuff in their own basements where they can hit and pitch."

On Friday, Afrim's Sports indoor sports facility in Colonie announced on Twitter that it would be suspending all activities until further notice.

Maintaining league integrity

The anticipated start of competition on April 19 would give area baseball teams just four weeks to determine win-loss records and prepare for sectional play.

"I think the No. 1 priority is to get 14 [Suburban Council] games in," Shenendehowa baseball coach Greg Christodulu said. "I kind of anticipate [non-league] play would be eliminated to make sure the league is played out with integrity."

The Suburban Council and Wasaren League typically have a 14-game regular season schedule, the Patroon and Western Athletic Conference 16 with the Colonial Council 14 to 15 and the Foothills Council 13.

Christodulu believes a focus on league play would allow teams to prepare for the Section II tournament and beyond.

"League play determines seeding, seeding will determine who is playing who and then the tournament commences," Christodulu said. "If we as a league can keep the integrity of the league schedule in place to determine the seeding, the integrity of the tournament would hold true too."

Friday's news provided a delay, but a hopeful starting date for spring competitions, something the winter championships in basketball and ice hockey still do not have.

Winter sports still on hold

NYSPHSAA executive director Robert Zayas said on Friday the winter championships remained indefinitely postponed, as announced Thursday.

Zayas said that how that delay and potential cancellation could affect spring championships -- only two months away -- is still unclear.

Canceling the winter championships, though, is very much a possibility.

"If it becomes more apparent that the challenges are such that we can't possibly resume, then we would have to make the very difficult decision to cancel."

On Friday evening, the New York State Federation of Secondary School Athletic Associations announced that the 2020 Federation Tournament of Champions set for March 27-29 at Fordham University was canceled.

The basketball event features the state champions from the NYSPHSAA, the NYSAIS [Independent Schools], PSAL [NYC Public Schools] and CHSAA [Catholic High Schools] in a final four tournament for Class AA, A and B. Albany Academy for Boys was scheduled to be the NYSAIS entry for Class A.

The NYSFSSA said in a statement: "The Federation took great consideration in balancing public health need and providing an opportunity for high school student-athletes to compete in our prestigious event. Unfortunately, the difficult decision had to be made to cancel our tournament."

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