Spring sports cancel after school closure

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On Friday, May 1, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that schools in New York would remain closed for the duration of the school year. The Section IV spring sports season depended upon Cuomo’s decision, as sports would only be able to return if students were in the classroom. Therefore, no high school sports will be played until August at the earliest.

The sports canceled include baseball, softball, lacrosse, tennis and outdoor track and field. It is an unprecedented move but one the governor said is necessary for the well-being of society as we try to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Coaches did their best to stay connected with their teams, holding Zoom meetings and virtual training sessions. It was a commendable effort to keep teams prepared for a possible season.

For Ithaca, a very promising season was developing before the cancellation for two teams in particular. The Little Red baseball team, led by New York’s number-one prospect Holden Lazarus, was prepared to reach the state tournament for the first time in decades after falling in extra innings in the Section IV Championship last season.

The Little Red girls lacrosse team had a strong senior class that made up just under half the team. The coaches and players knew they had more to give after winning the Section IV Championship but falling short in the first round of the state championships.

Ithaca athletic director Samantha Little commented on the cancellation.

“In missing this spring season, there are so many mixed emotions,” Little said. “While greatly disappointed and heartbroken for all students, especially our seniors, I know our students want to do their part in creating a safer and better future for all.”

She recognized the efforts of the coaches for the spring teams to connect with their players.

“Our coaches and staff are also feeling the effects of the closure,” Little said. “Our spring coaches have provided synchronous and asynchronous learning for students since our last day on March 13. Spring coaches continued checking and connecting with students, families, community agencies and college coaches. I am so grateful that our coaches recognize the importance of their relationships with students and how critical those relationships are, especially during this time.”

Understandably, the most impacted group in this situation are the senior athletes. After pouring their hearts out throughout their high school tenures, they won’t get to put on their uniforms one last time. Ithaca will be doing its best to honor those athletes.

“We have done senior spotlights, yard signs for seniors and sent all spring students a note,” Little said. “However, this does not make up for time with teammates, competing and students being with their coaches. We are thinking about additional ways to celebrate our students with virtual senior night, virtual spring signing ceremony and having a red/gold contest using strict social distancing guidelines.”

Little’s final remarks stated that she hopes this time makes the Ithaca community more appreciative of day-to-day life and that seniors will learn from the “extremely difficult experience.”

Lansing also had success to look forward to this year. The Bobcats baseball team reached the Section IV semifinals and was hoping to return to the heights of years past. The outdoor track and field team also featured Gwen Gisler, who won the state championship in pole vault last year and was seeking a repeat performance in her final season.

Lansing’s athletic director, Matt Loveless, had the following message for the impacted student athletes.

“I’m sad for all of our student athletes, coaches and the community,” Loveless said. “Playing sports fills a void for many and teaches valuable life lessons. To the class of 2020, I am proud of your accomplishments in and out of the classroom. Thanks for all of your time and dedication over the years to Lansing Athletics. Best of luck to you in your future endeavors and stay strong. We will all get through this together.”

Being one of just two schools in the county with a lacrosse team, the spring season is always a big deal in Dryden. It was also supposed to be a last hurrah for track and field coach Lee Stuttle, who is retiring after over three decades of coaching. He led the Lions to a Section IV Championship during the winter’s indoor track season this year.

Dryden athletic director Todd Kwiatkowski directed his message to the senior athletes of the spring sports.

“I really feel for the seniors who have invested the past five years playing for Dryden,” Kwiatkowski said. “To have their final year cut short was disheartening. I think of the lost opportunities for the kids, the records that might have been broken on the track or diamond and just the camaraderie of being with your teammates and coaches for one last season. I just want our seniors to know that no matter where they go from here, they will always be a part of the Dryden Lions team.”

Disappointment is more than an understatement when it comes to the elimination of spring sports in 2020. For now, we can only hope that fall sports will start on time for a full year of athletics following the summer.

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