Winter Sports: COVID forces some to hit pause button

Dave Purpura
ThisWeek group
Westerville North boys basketball coach Shan Trusley and his team have dealt with a two-week COVID-19 shutdown in addition to competition delays from the school district and OCC. "The most important thing is that the kids and their families remain healthy," Trusley said.

Groveport Madison girls basketball coach Zach Cowan didn’t think “disappointed” or “upset” quite described his and his players’ reaction to the school district’s recent move to pause games through December because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

“I think frustrated might be the right word,” Cowan said. “It’s just continued letdowns. We were able to start the (preseason) on time, great. We were able to start classes, then we headed back to virtual learning. Now we find out that we can’t play until January and we’d literally done everything we could as a program to keep that from happening. It is frustrating.”

The district on Nov. 19 announced that all extracurricular activities, including practices, were canceled through Nov. 29. Classes and practices were scheduled to resume the next day, the first day back after Thanksgiving break, but games will not take place until at least Jan. 4.

At the time, Groveport was the only district in the area to suspend all games through December. Others followed suit Nov. 20 after the OCC suspended league competition through Dec. 17, with many districts halting play altogether at least through that date — including non-league games — but allowing practices and conditioning.

Big Walnut, Gahanna, Grove City Christian, Olentangy and Worthington Christian continued to schedule non-league competition.

Columbus Academy planned to make a decision after it returned from Thanksgiving break.

>>PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Central Ohio school districts determining course for winter sports<<

The OCC’s timeline coincided with the 28-day stay-at-home advisory recommended by Franklin County Public Health and the city of Columbus that began Nov. 20 and runs through Dec. 18.

Gov. Mike DeWine on Nov. 17 announced a 21-day statewide curfew that started Nov. 19 and is in effect from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. 

“This action was taken to protect our student-athletes, staff, communities, and to comply with the requests of the department of health,” OCC commissioner Ken Baker said. 

The league’s executive committee will revisit the pause during a Dec. 11 meeting.

The Capital Hockey Conference also suspended competition through November, according to its website.

Westerville schools already had planned to shut down all activities from Nov. 21-29 even before the OCC’s decision. That compounded a difficult month for North’s boys basketball team, which earlier had been quarantined for two weeks.

“Of the 30 days in November, we only had six days with either practices or scrimmages,” coach Shan Trusley said. “The most important thing is that the kids and their families remain healthy. We want to balance it so in the end we have everyone stay healthy and we have a bit of a season.”

Olentangy’s boys basketball team added home games Saturday, Dec. 5, against Buckeye Valley and Dec. 15 against Caledonia River Valley, while Berlin’s boys team found games against Watkins Memorial on Dec. 19 and Mount Vernon on Jan. 9. The Olentangy girls team had been scheduled to open Nov. 24 against Delaware but instead played Licking Heights that night.

“The OCC is five counties wide … (and ) it’s probably not the wisest decision to go against the governor,” Berlin athletics director John Betz said of the 32-team conference that spans Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Licking and Union counties. “We will proceed with caution with limited spectators, which is moms and dads and that’s about it.”

dpurpura@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekDave