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By Mark Gregory
Editorial Director 

After holding out hope, IHSA cancels spring state championships

14 sports will be without a winner this season

 

Last updated 5/14/2020 at 11:25pm

“The one constant through all the years, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.”

James Earl Jones said those words in the movie ‘Field of Dreams,’ the words rang true.

Spring sports, led by America’s pastime has been the landscape of the warm weather months from the professional ranks down through high school for generations – until now.

While professional sports are scrambling to find a way to play amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that has locked down the globe, the NCAA cancelled its spring sports in March and on Tuesday, the Illinois High School Association Board of Directors announced its decision to cancel all 14 IHSA spring state tournaments.

The decision to cancel the spring state tournaments follows the April 17 order by Gov J.B. Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education that all Illinois high schools will complete the 2020 school term from home via e-learning.

"We support the decision by Governor Pritzker and the Illinois State Board of Education, and given the logistics, we simply felt we could not conduct state tournaments that meet the expectations of our member schools this spring, " IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement. "As disappointing as it may be for students, it is the right decision for their health and safety, as well as for the health and safety of the general public, as we cope with this unprecedented pandemic."

The Board also determined that summer contact days for fall and winter sports are suspended for this year, unless state government and medical leaders indicate such gatherings are safe.

If that time comes, the IHSA indicated a willingness to reconsider how summer contact might be conducted and whether opportunities for schools to conduct some kind of spring athletic events might occur.

"Once it is determined safe to return, we will provide a detailed outline to our schools on the plan for summer contact days and possibly some kind of spring athletic events," Anderson said. "Including if the number of days and dates that coaches can meet with athletes has been altered. At this point, though, all that is dependent upon state government and medical leaders giving the go ahead for such.”

One team that on paper had as good of a chance as any to bring home and state championship was Joliet Catholic Academy.

“This is depressing,” JCA baseball coach Jared Voss said. “There are so many of the coaches and the kids that work so hard leading up to this and today where so many kids are single sport athletes and didn’t have football in the or basketball in the winter and to not have that senior season, you really feel for these kids.

“The web that stretches from the impact on this stretches wide. There are kids that had pro aspirations, but then there were the seniors that had not decided on what college and were looking to the season to see what came about – like the kids that didn’t play much as juniors, but were expected to play a lot as seniors and were looking for people to come watch them.”

The IHSA understands and sympathizes with those players that are losing a season – especially those losing their final one.

"Our thoughts right now are with all the impacted students, coaches and communities. Especially the seniors. It will be difficult for them to find a silver lining in all of this, but we stress that even if they don't get the chance to compete again at the high school level, they are better for having been a part of their respective high school teams. The possibility of playing a spring sport game this summer is about closure. If we are able to offer this opportunity, no student-athlete would be restricted by having already practiced or competed with a non-school team."

That closure is what one local coach will miss the most – even more than being contenders for a state championship this season.

“The last three weeks, I have been holding ZOOM reunion meetings with certain teams and certain groups of years and they started at 9 p.m. and some ended at two in the morning and it was awesome,” said Joliet Catholic Academy baseball coach Jared Voss. “But probably only 10 percent of what we talked about was stuff that happened on the field. It was the overnight trips, the bus rides. This year we were supposed to play at Wrigley Field and that day it was 70 degrees out. State championships are great and that is always the goal, but it is really all about the experiences and growing with the guy next to going through a season. It is all the little things that we didn’t get to experience and didn’t get continue to grow.”

As said in the 1888 poem by Ernest Thayer, “Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;

the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;

but there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out.”

Today, thousands of high school athletes struck out – and coronavirus threw the fastball.

 

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