CORONAVIRUS

Iowa high school spring sports are canceled; summer sports are suspended

Decisions made after Gov. Reynolds orders schools closed for remainder of 2019-20 school year due to COVID-19

Track workers use a squeegee roller and a leaf blower to clear rainwater from the infield shot put area as workers prepa
Track workers use a squeegee roller and a leaf blower to clear rainwater from the infield shot put area as workers prepare the track during the 2019 state track and field meet at Drake Stadium in Des Moines. The stadium will be empty this year; all Iowa high school sports — track and field, soccer, golf and tennis — have been canceled. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

After missing his junior track and field season due to a torn ACL, Kian Davis was convinced this was going to be his year.

“I was expecting a big senior year,” said Davis, a senior from Cedar Rapids Prairie. “I was out for 14 months, and people didn’t know what I was capable of. I had a lot to prove, and I was training hard, trying to get an edge on everybody else.”

Davis is one of about 45,000 Iowa high school athletes who learned Friday their spring season was canceled.

Guidance from Gov. Kim Reynolds, the Iowa Department of Education, and the Iowa Department of Public Health had previously suspended spring activities through April 12, then through April 30, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friday morning, Gov. Reynolds announced in a news conference with Department of Education executive director Ann Lebo that Iowa schools will be closed through the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

And that was the final blow for spring sports — track and field, soccer, golf and tennis.

“I’m not shocked. I can appreciate the governor’s decision,” Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union executive director Jean Berger said Friday afternoon. “I think it was the right decision, and I support it.”

On the other hand ...

“I feel bad for the athletes,” Berger said. “Especially the seniors. I know they worked really hard, and I’m sure they are shocked to have it taken away so suddenly.”

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Iowa High School Athletic Association executive director Tom Keating said, “Obviously, I feel bad for the kids any time opportunities are lost, whether it’s sports, graduation, just being with their friends on a day-to-day basis. But we all realized that some tough decisions had to be made with safety in mind, and because of that, I respect the governor’s decision.”

A lot of the kids saw this coming.

“I was still holding out hope; I was continuing to train,” said Linn-Mar’s Dimia Burrell, a track and field athlete bound for the University of Iowa. “But I’m not surprised.

“It’s tough because a lot of us have continued to train. Everybody’s pretty torn up about it. But there’s a lot of good things to look back on, so I consider myself lucky.”

Center Point-Urbana senior soccer player Lauren Dufoe expects to experience periodic grieving periods throughout the coming weeks.

“The toughest part, I think, is the loss of the luxury of that moment when you know it’s over,” said Dufoe, who will continue her soccer career at Coe College.

“That moment when your season is over is sad anyway, but not as sad as when you don’t have that moment.”

High school baseball and softball are under suspension, and have not been canceled. Further decision on summer sports will be made by June 1, which currently serves as the first day of practice.

“We’re going to reconvene and look at where we are at that point,” Berger said. “In the meantime, we are making contingency plans.

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“If we have summer seasons, we’ll have a plan. Obviously, it probably won’t be a normal season.”

The state softball tournament remains scheduled for July 20-24 at the Rogers Sports Complex in Fort Dodge. State baseball is July 24-Aug. 1 at Principal Park in Des Moines.

“That’s so far down the line, we’re just keeping it on hold right now,” Keating said. “We don’t know where we’ll be with this on June 1.”

Berger estimated the Union will lose between $175,000 and $200,000 in revenue due to the absence of spring sports. Most of that comes from the state track and field meet.

Keating said the IHSAA stands to lose about $90,000 in revenue. The IHSAA also lost revenue at state basketball when the final day (March 13) was played in front of a nearly empty Wells Fargo Arena due to the pandemic.

“What we lose in money is nothing compared to what the kids lose in memories,” Keating said.

Track and field ranked No. 2 in Iowa in participation for boys (12,012 in 2019) and girls (9,908) in 2018-19.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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