Spring sports facing uncertain future in county

By: 
Derrick Forsythe
Record Staff Writer

It seems almost fictional, but for the foreseeable future — sports are cancelled.

Outside of a pickup game, you will struggle to find an organized athletic contest in the United States. And Missouri was one of the last to put away the equipment, with the conclusion of the Show-Me Showdown Class 1-3 Basketball Championships last weekend.

A decision was made on Monday to cancel the Class 4-5 finals slated for this weekend, and it’s likely spring sports will face a similar fate.

In the wake of Covid-19 pandemic, schools across the country are closing their doors to limit the spread of infection. And empty classrooms mean barren baseball diamonds, un-scuffed tracks and unscathed greens, among other lonely sports settings.

“I just cancelled our soccer tournament, because every other team scheduled to play has pulled out of the event,” said Warrenton High School Activities Director Kevin Fowler.

The Warriors were set to host a season-opening soccer event on Friday and Saturday.

“Everybody on our schedule has shut down through April 3, with the exception of Wright City.”

On Wednesday evening, both Warrenton and Wright City were expected to make an announcement about closing their doors as well.

So what does this mean for area prep athletes?

“It’ll prove to be interesting,” said Wright City Activities Director David Evans. “For the kids’ sake, I hope we can get some action in, especially for the seniors.”

Given the guidelines from the Missouri State High School Activities Association, if it’s deemed unsafe to attend school due to a public health threat, the same would apply to athletic events. In a pair of districts where a large percentage of the student body is involved in extracurricular activities, the impact would be significant.

Wright City has put a halt on practices for all of its four springs sports — baseball, girls golf, track and girls soccer, which is only in its second season.

“If you look at the numbers we have combined among sports all levels (middle school and high school), you’re talking close to 200 kids who are going to be affected by this,” said Evans. “There’s almost 100 kids in track alone. With a large portion of those being seniors, it’s hard. Hopefully it’s nothing these kids ever have to see again.”

If the district decides to close its doors and resort to virtual learning the remainder of the year, it could mean the elimination of an entire sports season. Even if school does return to session and allow for a partial season, it would present some unique dilemmas.

“There’s a lot of unanswered questions,” said Fowler. “For instance, the state requires us to have 14 practices before competing against other schools. Would they count the practices we’ve already had when we return? If we have to start over, that would really cut into any actual games and push us right up into district time. We would also have to consider how to handle conference play, maybe with some type of tournament format.

For Warrenton, four different sports and a myriad of other extracurricular events, such as speech and debate and scholar bowl, are being impacted.

“This is really a new situation for us that we haven’t had to address in the past, so there are no clear answers,” added Fowler. “A lot of it will depend upon guidance from MSHSAA.”

Both administrators are hopeful that at least part of the season can be salvaged, particularly for upperclassmen who are aspiring toward state-level achievements or relying upon sports as a gateway toward a college scholarship.

Evans says in an effort to best prepare for the possibility of even a partial season, he is encouraging athletes to remain active during this time and for coaches to stay in contact and provide guidance.

“My plan is to have coaches in constant communication with kids, where they’re set up on Google classroom,” said Evans. “If we do feel like we’re going to get some competition at the end of the seaosn, it’s imperative coaches are connected and have the athletes on workout programs at their houses. You can’t take several weeks off and not work out at all and be ale to compete at district ad state level competition.”

So as athletes move forward, they will continue to do what they’ve been doing for the past few weeks — preparing for the unknown with the optimistic outlook that prep sports will find its way back onto the calendar.

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