The other shoe officially dropped for spring sports in Missouri.
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced Thursday afternoon that all public and charter schools in the state will remain closed to in-person learning through the remainder of the school year to combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, and the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) followed shortly after with an announcement that all spring sports championships were canceled.
While the decision comes on the heels of weeks of postponements and cancellations, the finality of Thursday's decision still hit the Missouri high school sports world hard.
“In the back of my mind, seeing the other states closing down, I thought it might be a possibility,” Hannibal athletic director Clint Graham said. “If they made this decision, I thought it would be a little closer to the end of April. It definitely caught me off guard.
“I was in a meeting this morning with another 100 athletic directors around the state of Missouri and the director of MSHSAA, and there were no clues or heads up even in that meeting. I think (Parson) caught everybody off guard with the timing.”
Teams around the coverage area shared a groan of frustration over the canceled spring season. Monroe City boys track coach David Kirby lamented the fact that his team now doesn't get a chance to defend its Class 2 state championship from 2019.
“We were really excited. We brought a lot of returning all-state kids back from a state title team a year ago,” Kirby said. “We knew that our kids were working really hard, both on the girls and the boys side. There was a lot of promise and excitement around the programs.
“It's a hard pill to swallow, but it's nothing we can control so we can't really let it destroy us. It's out of our hands, that's just how life goes some times.”
Typically in the spring, cancellations are inevitable with the constantly-changing weather. This spring, however, the weather has been ideal for spring sports, which makes the season cancellation even more frustrating.
“You look at all the negatives and just hope that some positives come out of this,” Palmyra baseball coach Mark Loman said. “I think there will be some positives, but for the time being it's very sad for as much as those seniors have worked hard.”
It's not just the athletes who are affected by spring's cancellation.
“As a coach and an athletic director, it becomes a way of life for us,” Graham said. “I consider all the kids that are participating my kids as well. The best part of my job is getting to go out throughout the week and on weekends and watching them compete. That's where the fun part of my job is. Now all of a sudden it comes to a screeching halt.”
While high school sports are one of the most directly impacted activities from the cancellations, the affects reach much deeper into the lives of students.
“It's the sports that hits home right at the moment, but it's prom, it's graduation, it's the ceremonies and celebrations of the end of your high school career,” Loman said. “It's not really ending the way that those kids wanted it to end.”
Schools can still do what they can to send their seniors off right, but their efforts won't be accompanied by competition.
“No matter what we do, it won't be the same,” Graham said. “I'm trying to come up with a way now to work with my coaches on finding ways to recognize the seniors, but it's just not going to be the same for them. We are going to do the best we can to recognize them, but not being able to play the season is going to be tough.”
With the final decision now made on spring sports, the hope is the spread of coronavirus is hindered enough to not affect fall sports. If fall sports are able to continue as planned, coaches expect kids to be fired up and ready to compete.
“That's our goal. We want everybody to be safe, we want everybody to be healthy and take care of themselves right now,” said Kirby, who also serves as Monroe City's head football coach. “When it's time to play the games and get back into preparation, they'll find a way.”