Utah High School Activities Association cancels spring sports seasons
On Tuesday afternoon, Dave Feasler was working on the baseball field. Rather than preparing for the Miners’ game at Payson later that day, or making sure the field was in shape for when Park City hosted them on Thursday, the Park City High School baseball coach was doing anything he could to stay busy.
And then he got the text that confirmed what he already knew, but was hoping wasn’t true.
That day, Gov. Gary Herbert announced that the 2019-2020 school year was over. Shortly afterward, the Utah High School Activities Association announced it was canceling the rest of the 2020 spring sports season.
“My assistant coach texted me saying that the Governor was going to give some sort of announcement at 1:30 to announce the closure of the schools the rest of the academic year,” Feasler said. “I was just out here doing yard work. … Just doing what I typically do to make our baseball field is in great shape. But once I heard that school was canceled, I pretty much knew the season was officially over as well. … And that was something that was hard to hear and definitely disappointing.”
Following Governor Herbert’s announcement on Tuesday afternoon, the Utah High School Activities Association announced that, in accordance with the Governor’s announcement, the spring sports season would be canceled.
“In accordance with Gov. Gary R. Herbert and State Superintendent Syd Dickson’s announcement earlier today that Utah schools will be closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the school year, the Utah High School Activities Association has canceled all remaining spring activities, including sports and state championships. Current UHSAA policies prohibiting the use of school facilities and organizing practice and/or team gatherings remain in effect until further notice,” the UHSAA statement said.
The UHSAA had originally announced on March 16 that the season would be delayed until May 1, with an update to come over the next month.
According to Feasler, it was a tough decision to make, but ultimately Herbert and the UHSAA decided that the safety of all students, athletes and teachers should take precedent over anything else.
“It’s heartbreaking because for my seniors, at least half of them will never play organized baseball like this again,” Feasler said. “But what’s pretty remarkable throughout this is how my boys, and the Park City athletes have been handling it. They’re not blaming anyone or even resorting to anger … They understand the situation and are just happy to be healthy.”
For Michael Persky and Lucy Mower, Park City High School’s boys and girls lacrosse coaches, the decision to cancel the season is one that’s a tough pill to swallow considering how talented their teams were.
The boys lacrosse team was largely considered the top team in the state, but after winning the past two state titles at the club level,it will not be able to win the first state-sanctioned lacrosse championship.
“This was an outstanding team. … Their athleticism and character are impressive, and the character part has really come through in the way the team has persevered through today and the way they’re addressing the setback,” Perksy said. “In the end, lacrosse and sports are just that, they’re just games. In the game and the pursuit of championships, which is what we were after, there are a lot of lessons to be learned and this is just another one of them.”
For Mower, she’s not asking the “what if” question because it seems pointless considering the Miners played just one game — a 13-6 victory over Corner Canyon on March 10.
“I think the short time we were together, we bonded really well and came together. … But since we only played one game it’s hard to tell, performance-wise, where we would’ve been in the end,” Mower said. “No doubt about it though, we would’ve been a top contender in the state. All the hard work we put in before the season, particularly in fitness and conditioning, makes me believe that we would’ve been where we wanted to be at the end of the season.”
For George Murphy, Park City High school girls golf coach, he has no problem wondering and thinking about the “what if” side of things considering where the Miners have finished the last half a decade.
“We were going to win state. … We’ve finished in second place the last five or six years and it’s killing me,” Murphy said. “This puts things into perspective and how we take them for granted. Sports are huge and unite our schools, our towns, our states and our country. … And it’s something that we have that’s a huge part of our society so when it gets taken away, it’s hard to deal with.”
Park City track and field coach Dave Yocum got a firsthand experience when his neighbor contracted the virus. He says it was tough to see her struggle like that, so he supports the UHSAA’s decision.
But that doesn’t mean it takes the emotion out of the situation.
“I understand the decision from an analytical standpoint and agree with it, but it’s still hard and that’s how you put it all into perspective,” Yocum said. “I try to put a positive spin on it for our kids and families because as far as I know, we are all healthy. Hopefully we can turn the corner and start making some progress.”
With the spring sports season canceled and now looking ahead to the future, there are questions as to whether or not there will be a fall sports season. But any speculation at this point is just that, and only time will tell if and when society can return to normalcy, and with it comes high school sports.
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The Miners ended up on the wrong side of a close game on senior night but are still fighting for playoff seeding.