Spring finals erased

The Canton and South Jefferson girls lacrosse teams compete in the state tournament in 2019. Alain St. Pierre/Courier Observer

In an effort to lengthen the regular season and reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association voted to cancel the spring state championships during its scheduled Executive Committee meeting.

“Certainly a difficult decision,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas said in a tweet Wednesday. “However, at this time our focus must be on maximum participation of students. Making this announcement now provided schools and Sections with flexibility to appropriately plan and schedule the remaining seasons of the 2020-2021 school year.”

The 2020-21 winter and fall II state championships had already been canceled by the NYSPHSAA.

Like the winter state championships, this will be the second year in a row that the no spring state champions are crowned. The 2020 spring season was canceled entirely last April due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Spring sports include boys and girls lacrosse, baseball, softball and track. Boys lacrosse is the only spring sport considered high-risk by the state Department of Health.

The decision didn’t come as much of a surprise to Jason Coffman, Carthage’s boys lacrosse coach.

“We are where we are, we’re still fighting every day to get a chance to play any contest at all as a high-risk sport,” Coffman said. “Moving forward with our winter season with wrestling, basketball and volleyball, hopefully being able to play contests by the end of February and the beginning of March is getting us back to just being able to play in these games. And it’s just one of those things, to be honest with you, to have the state make a decision in advance like this is actually easier on my mind-set and hopefully the kids, too, at least they know it’s not there.”

Coffman, the coach of two high-risk sports at Carthage with football and lacrosse, is focusing first on safely finding a way to play games. And while plans are in place for high-risk winter sports to begin, it’s still uncertain if football or boys lacrosse will get that chance.

For Canton athletic director and boys track and field coach Bill Porter, the odds of a spring season for the low-risk sport is much higher. However, the loss of the state championships doesn’t sting any less.

“If I were to answer with my heart, I would tell you that it is terrible, frustrating and disappointing ... like so many other COVID-19-related decisions,” Porter said. “If I were to answer with my head I would say that it makes sense and we anticipated it happening. I have attended the state track and field championships for almost three decades now and my heart breaks for those student-athletes who lost the chance to attend them last season. To now miss a second season ... it’s just terrible. Our Section has several athletes who were expected to do well this season.”

Porter mentioned Nick Lyndaker, Miles Gendebein and Max Finley as stand-out performers poised to have a good season. Canton also retains three members of its 4100 girls relay that competed in the state playoffs in 2019: Eden Williams-Bergen, Claire Craig and Emily Jordan.

State tournaments are far from simply showing up and playing. Porter, as an AD, understands the many factors that come into play when planning events of that size.

“Wearing my AD’s hat, I know how much planning and logistics there are to organizing these events,” Porter said. “Hotel rooms to secure, parking, food preparation for the hundreds of athletes and thousands of people who attend the events. I can say with confidence that the state association leadership must have struggled with this decision but ultimately felt it was necessary.”

Maddie Dinneen, a track state title contender for Norwood-Norfolk, is disappointed in the cancellation of the spring state playoffs, but she is looking to other events for motivation in her junior year.

“The news of no state track meet is very disappointing, especially two years in a row,” said Dinneen, who has NCAA Division I aspirations in the sport. “It is difficult for athletes, including myself, to find motivation to train during these tough times, without being able to compete. Although there is no state track meet, there are other opportunities to find competition. “Staying positive and creating your own opportunities as an athlete is key right now. This applies to college recruiting, in which I have the ability to reach out to colleges and show them what I’m about, since they are unable to see this on the track.”

Times sportswriter Cap Carey contributed to this report.

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Sports Writer

Beat writer for Section 3 high school football, Frontier League boys and girls basketball, Frontier League baseball and Frontier League softball.

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