All Missouri high school spring sports seasons cancelled by sanctioning body late last week

By late last Thursday afternoon (April 9, 2020), there simply remained no viable path forward amid concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. With, figuratively, a heavy thud and the click of a deadbolt sliding into place, the door closed on the dreams of would-be 2020 Missouri high school sports athletes, many of them seniors seeking one final appearance in the arena.

In line with Gov. Mike Parson’s order that all public school buildings in Missouri are to remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, the Missouri State High School Activities Association announced on April 9 it was canceling all spring competition for its member schools.

“This decision is very difficult for all involved, especially given the impact it will have on our students, parents, coaches, teachers, and administrators throughout the state,” MSHSAA Executive Director Kerwin Urhahn said.

“We thank all of the participants, the coaches/directors/advisers, the administrations, the parents and everyone else who have dedicated tremendous amounts of time, passion and effort to these events.”

MSHSAA had kept spring sports championships, presumably on a delayed basis, on the table in recent weeks, continuing planning for the events should schools resume regular sessions in time to hold them. As of early this month, Missouri was one of 37 states across the country still holding out hope that high schools could play some semblance of a spring sports season, according to the USA TODAY Sports Network.

In a tweet on the Chillicothe Track and Field Twitter account, CHS boys’ head coach Bill Shaffer stated, “We all hoped this would not happen, but this makes it official. As a coaching staff, we can't begin to express our thanks and love to all of our team, especially our seniors. You all gave us everything!”

 

“I am extremely saddened to hear that the season has been cancelled,” Lady Hornets track-and-field head coach Karen Jackson commented. “This time of year is always fun, especially for the seniors. 

For CHS, the cancellation vaporized what held promise of being a very successful 2020 season of spring sports competition – success in which seniors who no longer will get that chance were expected to play key roles.

In baseball, two seniors – Jaden Winder (University of Central Missouri) and Westley Brandsgaard (State Fair Community College) – already signed to continue playing the sport beyond high school and Kam Ward, signed to play small-college football, would have helped form a formidable core as the diamond Hornets tried to bounce back from an injury-dampened, subpar 2019.

In boys' tennis, multi-years varsity starters Noah Crowe, Brendan Nelson, and Grahm Mayers and returning 2019 starter Gavin Sampsel – all 12th graders – figured to make the netters strong contenders to recapture district supremacy after finishing second to Trenton a year ago.

In girls' soccer, while the number of impact seniors was comparatively less, returning starters Magy Thomas and Callaway Chapman would have been able to use their experience to help transition an otherwise young and somewhat-inexperienced group to the varsity level. As a result of this year's scrubbing, next year's team will be without both the year's experience and the departed 2020 seniors' guidance.

 

Jimmy Chapman, who would have had his first season as a head coach of the soccer Lady Hornets after several years as assistant for both the CHS girls’ and boys’ teams, instead, he will have to wait a year for that experience.

 

“I am sad and frustrated, but, at the same time, I completely understand the current landscape and the need to keep everyone safe and healthy,” he reacted to the definitive word.

 

“I thought our team was going to have an amazing season and it saddens me this group of girls will never get the chance to play together again with our three seniors not getting to play.”

 

He commented at greater length regarding those seniors.

 

“Magy Thomas, Callaway Chapman, and Caroline Witt have been amazing examples (during the couple of weeks of formal preseason practices, as well as offseason preparation) of what hard work and determination can do,” he said.

 

“They are great leaders that valued the team as a whole, rather than focusing on individual players. They helped make everyone feel welcome and included in the team and brought everyone together to reach our goals.

 

“They have left a great blueprint of how to lead in a short amount of time that I hope the rest of the team emulates and makes their own for next season. They will be missed as players, but most importantly as members of our team and the CHS Hornets soccer family. We will miss them and I know they will go on to do great things.

In track-and-field, the boys' team had multiple projected senior standouts like 1,600-meters relay state medalists Isaak Rasche and Kaleb Mullikin and several other throwers and runners who would have been mainstays, while the Lady Hornets' group of 12th graders included 2019 800-meters state medal winner Jordan Hibner, distance-running transfer Clarissa Nivens, versatile Kennedy Corzette, and sectional-qualifying throwers Montana Hall and Abby Jones to build around.

 

“I was looking forward to seeing the seniors compete this year and they all had hopes of getting past sectionals this year," Jackson shared. "A few came extremely close to moving on to state last year and Jordan Hibner, of course, medaled there.

 

“I wish nothing but the best for our senior athletes and know they will come through this situation as strong adults.”

The CHS team least impacted, in terms of lost would-be senior leadership, was the golf Hornets. However, their only returning 12th grader, C.J. Williams, was looking to take a big step up in his fourth year as a varsity starter, coach Jim Wheeler had mentioned. In addition, a couple of seniors who had not played for the team before showed promise of possibly contributing to the success of a squad which would have had three of its top four players from 2019 back as underclassmen.

MSHSAA noted the decision to call off spring sports was not made lightly and will be most felt by senior student-athletes, who will miss their last opportunities to compete in their respective sports at the prep level.

“We thank you for everything you have done for your schools and communities and wish you the very best in your bright futures,” MSHSAA’s Urhahn said to senior athletes across the state. “While this is a difficult ending, the lessons you’ve learned and friendships you’ve made through high school activities will last your lifetime.”

Championship events play a large role in MSHSAA’s annual revenue, though communications director Jason West said last Monday that was not a consideration in the decision process.

The MSHSAA representatives said the organization now will shift focus to planning for a presumed “normal” resumption of high school activities for the 2020-21 school year, in hope that coronavirus restrictions will be lifted some time in the next month or two.

While schools are not in session and there are no competitive seasons during the summer, the association does have offseason training requirements and restrictions for schools, teams, and athletes which are in effect during the summer months. Re-working of those for summer 2020 could be required, depending on when coronavirus restrictions are lifted or relaxed.

(This story was jointly produced by the Constitution-Tribune and Columbia Daily Tribune)