The Ohio High School Athletic Association officially canceled the spring sports season April 20, an unprecedented step brought on by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The move followed Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement earlier in the day that school buildings statewide will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year.
“As we have stated in our previous communications, today’s announcement by Governor DeWine to close schools for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year also will now result in the cancellation of OHSAA-sponsored spring sports seasons including tournaments,” OHSAA executive director Jerry Snodgrass said in an email to member schools that was provided to ThisWeekSPORTS.com.
Snodgrass previously had said spring sports would be canceled if schools do not reopen.
DeWine’s announcement came four days after a three-phase federal plan to reopen the country recommended that schools closed at the time were advised to remain so.
“To go back to school now with a relatively small amount of time left ... that’s probably not a good idea even if the health situation was resolved, which obviously it is not,” DeWine said, adding that no decision has been made about schools opening in the fall. “It’s a real shame. I can’t express how sorry I am about that because I know how much all of these activities mean to young people, especially those in their senior years.”
The OHSAA initially postponed the boys basketball regional tournament and the girls basketball, hockey and wrestling state tournaments and all spring sports March 12. The winter tournaments were canceled March 26.
The OHSAA on April 9 released tentative schedules for spring sports that were contingent on schools reopening May 4. All seasons would have begun May 9, with state tournaments spread over the final three weekends in June.
“We all knew it was headed this way from the time of the first postponements, but there was still a chance,” Pickerington North athletics director Molly Feesler said, her voice breaking at times. “We knew it was coming, but here it is.”
Westerville Central softball coach Brian Wamsley spent time the past few weeks devising scenarios in which sports could take place. Among the ideas he shared on social media were having baseball and softball players wear masks while playing and moving the home plate umpire to at least six feet behind the pitcher.
“It’s tough. I wouldn’t want to be in (Snodgrass’) place. This is a tough decision, but I feel horrible,” said Wamsley, whose team reached its first Division I state tournament last spring behind first-team all-state pitcher and Ohio State recruit Emily Ruck. “I think we could probably make it work and stay safe, just as safe as (if) we are going to the grocery store, but heaven forbid someone does contract this disease because of a softball game and takes it back to the family and grandparents die or a coach or umpire died. ... There’s no easy answer.”
Worthington Kilbourne girls lacrosse player Jackie Wolford expressed a mix of anger and sadness at losing her senior season, partly because her father, Bill, was an assistant coach for the Wolves this spring.
“I’m more sad than mad right now,” Jackie Wolford said. “It’s also really sad and gut-wrenching about not being able to play the game I love with my teammates and having my dad be on the sidelines coaching me. It is what it is, but it’s definitely hard to swallow.”
Dublin Scioto athletics director Nick Magistrale said while the announcement was a formality, that did not lessen the sting.
“The overwhelming feeling of disappointment became very real,” Magistrale said. “The only comfort is knowing we are all in this together. I look forward to feeling a deep sense of appreciation once schools are permitted to resume and student-athletes are allowed to rejoin their teammates and compete.”