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MHSAA cancels remainder of the 2020 spring sports season

The season is over.

For everybody.

The Mississippi High School Activities Association’s executive committee voted unanimously Wednesday morning to cancel all sports and activities for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MHSAA’s decision came one day after Gov. Tate Reeves announced that all public schools would remain closed for the rest of the school year.

Per MHSAA rules, competition, practices or tryouts for sports and activities are not allowed while schools are closed, which largely made Wednesday’s decision a formality.

“This is an extremely difficult day because we know how much work, dedication and sacrifice these students, coaches and their families have put into these sports and activities that are unable to finish their spring seasons,” MHSAA executive director Don Hinton said in a statement. “We join all of our schools in anticipation of a successful return to sports and activities in the fall of 2020. The MHSAA thanks everyone involved for their patience and understanding throughout this process.”

The MHSAA’s decision canceled the remainder of the seasons for baseball, softball, golf, tennis, powerlifting, and track and field teams at its nearly 200 member schools.

Spring football practice periods and games, as well as the state archery and band championships, had previously been canceled.
The MHSAA said Wednesday that offseason and summer sports and activities will not be permitted until at least June 1.

No decision has yet been made on whether the 2020 high school football season, as well as those for the fall sports of swimming and cross country, will begin on time.

“The safety and well-being of our students, school personnel and communities is always at the very top of our list of priorities,” Hinton said. “When Gov. Reeves made the announcement schools would be closed for the remainder of the current 2019-20 school year, both MHSAA leadership and the executive committee felt the time had come to cancel all activities and athletics as well.”

The decision was not unexpected, especially after Reeves’ announcement. There had remained a sliver of hope, however, that something could be salvaged of the season.

The MHSAA initially suspended competition on March 15, with plans to resume on March 30. That was later extended to April 20 when the state and local governments issued various restrictions to help curb the COVID-19 outbreak in Mississippi.

The month in between left plenty of uncertainty, Warren Central softball coach Dana McGivney said.

“It’s been tough. We have a group text going and we call each other. It’s been rough since March, with them asking when we’re going to play, if we’re going to play, and not having those answers,” McGivney said.

Even with a month to prepare for the news, McGivney said it was not easy to take.

Warren Central had a 12-0 record when staetwide play was halted following its final games on March 14.

“It was a rough day yesterday, hearing that school was out and assuming that the MHSAA was going to cancel everything,” she said. “We were obviously holding out hope to play at least some sort of modified district schedule and playoffs. We were playing well and were excited about starting district, so it was disappointing. Especially for the seniors. They were all playing well, and to have their season cut short it was heartbreaking for them.”

Warren Central and Vicksburg’s softball teams managed to sneak in a couple of games in the hours before the shutdown in March, but Warren County’s baseball teams did not get that luxury. When Vicksburg High walked off the field following a 1-0 loss to St. Aloysius on March 10, its players and coaches had no idea it would be their last game of the season. Just 24 hours later the sports world started unraveling as college, pro and high school leagues shut down en masse.

“Once that game was over, our sights were turned toward winning our district. Now we don’t have that opportunity,” VHS baseball coach Antonio Calvin said. “We had it all mapped out. We were going to get a first-round bye and play on our new field in front of our fieldhouse. We had our vision written out and were checking off the boxes.”

Calvin said he was worried about the long-term effects on his program, and others like it, that were rebuilding. The Gators will lose three players who signed with junior colleges this season — pitchers Dylan Whitfield and Kendrick Bershell, and catcher Ryan Thompson — and a few other talented seniors.

Their replacements will not only lose valuable playing time this season that would have prepared them for 2021, Calvin said, but possibly offseason and summer workouts and games as well. There’s a good chance most of them won’t play baseball again until they return for preseason practice in February 2021.

“We’re losing a lot of guys that are pivotal to what we like to do and were good at. Normally you reload to replace them. This season, summer, offseason, if we’re not getting on the field, what are we going to replace them with?” Calvin said. “You’re talking about a weight program. Where are they going to go to weight train? We don’t have a timetable for when this will pass. Where are you going to get that specific training that you need for your sport? That’s when bad habits develop.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured sports reporters in the paper's 137-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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