Winter sports championships officially nixed

US&J FILE PHOTOBaseball action from last year at Roy-Hart Elementary School field.

LOCKPORT — With all hopes dashed for remaining winter sports high school championships in New York State this year, the deadline for determining whether there will be state high school finals in baseball and other spring sports is April 27, according to a letter issued to local coaches and administrators by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

Lockport's veteran baseball coach Dan Petock said Monday that no decisions have yet been made regarding any canceled contests this spring, but like everyone else, he said he's simply waiting things out and praying for the best at a time when hope for salvaging even a portion of a 2020 season is quickly diminishing.

In a letter to local coaches, the NYSPHSAA announced this week that it was officially canceling all remaining winter state championship events. These include, unfortunately, boys and girls basketball regionals and state championships, as well as the ice hockey and bowling championships.

Plans are being developed to honor and formally recognize student/athletes and teams who qualified to participate in these championship events, said NYSPHSAA executive director Dr. Robert Zayas. 

“It is with great disappointment that we make the decision to cancel the remaining winter championship events,” Dr. Zayas said.

“Our association’s focus is to benefit students through participation in interscholastic athletics and unfortunately this rapidly developing situation has prevented our association from providing a quality championship experience. We certainly sympathize for the students who are being impacted by this crisis but at this time they deserve honesty from the leadership of our association.”

Factors that played a role in this decision include but are not limited to: the evolving COVID-19 public threat, CDC mass gathering recommendations, Governor Andrew Cuomo’s declaration of a state emergency, President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, input from the 11 Sections and extended school closures.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions the officers of the NYSPHSAA have ever had to make,” said Paul Harrica, NYSPHSAA president.

“It has been determined it is not feasible for the winter state championships to be hosted in a safe and beneficial manner for the participating student-athletes and their teams in the near future. The health and safety of the students we serve will always be our top priority.”

In a letter to state executive directors, Dr. Zayas said he wanted the NYSPHSAA to focus on providing participation opportunities for the spring sport student-athletes it serves.

“When schools are able to return, students will need a sense of normalcy and providing them with any semblance of a regular season will be beneficial to them and their school community; senior nights, practice, team dinners and wearing a school uniform should be the focus of interscholastic athletic programs following the COVID-19 crisis,” Dr. Zayas stated.

“The date students are able to return to school will play a significant role in the length of the spring sports season and the potential of league, section and state championships. With school districts closed for an extended period of time, Sections and schools are individually determining the Spring sport start dates and practice parameters that best meet the needs of the students they represent.

“If needed, the spring sports season can be extended to provide more participation opportunities for students. The Officers of NYSPHSAA have waived the seven consecutive day rule for the 2020 spring sports season, which will allow teams to practice and compete on seven consecutive days during the regular season,” Dr. Zayas said.

Petock said the status of the NYSPHSAA spring state championships will be determined on or prior to Monday, April 27.

Among other options being discussed are a shortened season. Dr. Zayas said if it comes down to a shortened season, emphasis will be placed on teams completing their regular season schedules, not on the state championships.

Petock said the Lions are scheduled to play 20 regular-season games this spring, 16 league games and 4 non-league contests. Twelve of those contests are scheduled to be played at Lockport's new state-of-the-art baseball complex on Beattie Avenue at the city/town line.

As of right now, the state baseball sub regionals and regionals are slated June 4-6, the state semifinals on June 12 and the state championship game on June 13 in Binghamton.

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