In the wake of Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announcing Tuesday that all public schools will remain closed for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic., the Mississippi High School Activities Association announced Wednesday that they cancelled the remainder of spring sports in public schools.
The schools in the local area that are members of the MHSAA are Cleveland Central High School, Northside High School, Thomas E. Edwards, Shaw High School, Ray Brooks High School and West Bolivar High School. The spring sports in the local area are baseball, fast pitch softball, track, golf, tennis and powerlifting.
Cleveland Central High head baseball coach Alex Fletcher said the toughest part about the season coming to a close is the fact the seniors don’t get to finish their last year.
“The most unfortunate thing is all the time the seniors have invested through the course of their careers, and the coronavirus hits and changes everyone’s plans and expectations,” Fletcher said.
“For those seniors to not be able to enjoy that last season is unfortunate,” Fletcher added. “The underclassmen who have not graduated will see more opportunity in the future, but for our seniors that was their last chance to play as a Cleveland Central Wolf.”
Fletcher felt the right decision was ultimately made.
“With the health of the kids and everybody in the community, it was the responsible thing to do,” Fletcher said. “It’s certainly understandable. Unfortunate, but understandable.”
The Northside High School boys and girls track and field teams headed into this year with a lot of momentum as the boys won the 2A State Track Championship last year while the girls finished second in the girls meet. Both teams had a lot of athletes coming back.
“My heart goes out to the seniors that worked so hard to have themselves together for this season,” Northside boys and girls head track and field coach Linda Allen said. “My heart goes out to the seniors. We were looking forward to some of our seniors helping us bring in at least 40 points. We had juniors, sophomores, freshmen and eighth graders. We knew putting those young men and young ladies together, we were going to have a successful season boys and girls.”
Cleveland Central High School head boys track and field coach Kendrick Woodard said he understands the decision but also feels for the seniors that are having their year cut short.
“We all love sports, and it’s been a tough time for us but the most important thing though is we’ve got to look out for the safety of ourselves and, more importantly, these kids,” Woodard said. “It’s been a tough time for all of us, but I feel bad for those seniors especially in track and other sports. Some of those kids were looking forward to the opportunity of performing well and having the opportunity to earn a scholarship. All of that is just thrown out of the window. I had a guy on my team that had an opportunity to do well this year, but all of that possibly could be thrown out the window due to this pandemic.”
Northside High School head baseball coach Ashkelon Stapleton also understood the decision to cancel spring sports but realizes it’s a tough blow.
“It’s just one of those things where it’s about adapting to the moment,” Stapleton said. “It’s unfortunate, but I understand the precautions. I just feel for my seniors. These guys looked forward to their senior year and looked forward to having a chance to play in their high school playoffs. It’s kind of disheartening, but like I always tell them just keep going and keep working hard. It’s pretty tough.”
Cleveland Central High School head softball coach Taylor Taylor was also heart broken about the end of the year.
“It’s so hard to explain to the players the end of a season every year due to losses in the playoffs or any “last” game, but this is something new to every coach and player,” Taylor said. “Explaining the end of the school year and season to the senior class of 2020 is heartbreaking.”
Coach Taylor added this experience with the pandemic taught some powerful life lessons.
“As a coach and a teacher, I think it is vital to extend lessons on the field and in the classroom to lessons in life,” Taylor said. “As hard as it is for the kids, they are learning the valuable lesson of the importance of not taking anything for granted. They have had to learn this lesson the hardest way possible, but I know that this will change the mindset of student-athletes, coaches, parents and fans across the country. We will be able to take this lesson into our future, and we’ll be better people because of it.”