For some winter athletes, it was denial of the chance to finish.
For all spring athletes, it was denial of the opportunity to start.
Gov. Wolf’s decision Thursday to close Pennsylvania schools for the remainder of the school year because of the outbreak of the coronavirus shut the book on high school sports in the state as well.
The PIAA announced that winter and spring sports were canceled, ending one season on the brink of completion and stopping another before the first pitch in baseball, the first face-off in lacrosse, the first report of the starter’s pistol in track.
“My thoughts are mainly about [the lack of] closure,” said West Chester East senior basketball player Andrew Carr, whose team was in pursuit of the PIAA Class 5A title when the winter championships were suspended on March 12.
West Chester East and several other Philadelphia-area boys’ and girls’ basketball teams had advanced to the quarterfinal round of their respective tournaments. That meant they needed to win three more games to claim a state title.
The PIAA’s decision on March 12 to suspended and not cancel the basketball state tournaments kept hope alive for many athletes and coaches that the games might be resumed if schools were re-opened.
“I thought there was a chance, maybe even in May,” said Neumann Goretti boys’ basketball coach Carl Arrigale, whose team was favored to capture the Class 3A title.
Carr said the lack of a definitive finish to his senior season and scholastic career will linger.
“This is something I am going to think about,” said Carr, a Delaware recruit. “Going through the last day of high school and not knowing it was the last day is going to be one of the hardest things to deal with. Playing my last game without knowing it was my last game as well.”
Methacton center Jeff Woodward, whose team was in contention for the 6A crown, said the decision brought mixed emotions.
“It’s kind of a mixture of sadness and pride,” said Woodward, a Colgate recruit. “I’m sad we will never finish our careers. I’m sad that I didn’t know it was my last time taking off my jersey. But I’m proud of everything we did.”
Math, Civics & Sciences coach Lonnie Diggs, whose defending champion team was in strong contention for the Class 2 crown, felt for his seniors.
“I feel bad for the kids, especially the seniors, who worked so hard and are not going to have a proper culmination to the season,” Diggs said. “But I understand under these circumstances.”
Archbishop Wood coach John Mosco was hoping for surprise word that he games would go on.
“I figured it was coming but I was holding on to hope,” Mosco said. “Sad we couldn’t finish what we started, but I feel for all the seniors and 8th graders who were looking forward to graduation and walking the aisle.”
Bonner-Prendergast coach Kevin Funston, whose team was in contention for the Class 4A title, said there was a “glimmer of hope” that was extinguished by Thursday’s announcement.
“I immediately thought of my seniors,” Funston said. “In my mind, they are champions.”
Arrigale noted that Neumann Goretti’s basketball team was able to play most of its season, capturing the Philadelphia Catholic League title Feb. 24 with a victory over rival Roman Catholic before a capacity crowd at the Palestra.
“We played 28 games,” Arrigale said. “We had 60-70 practices. We played at the Palestra. We had a season. What about these spring athletes who won’t even get to play?”
St. Joseph’s Prep track and field coach Curtis Cockenberg, whose team won the indoor state title, called the news “a kick in the guts.”
“I have been coaching since 1975 and and thought I had experienced it all,” Cockenberg said. “This is uncharted territory. I especially feel for my seniors, some of whom were looking for a chance to impress college coaches.”
Neumann Goretti baseball coach Joe Messina said cancellation of the baseball season was a tough blow to take.