Missouri high school spring sports teams have held out hope that this season would return in some form, but that possibility ended on April 9 when Gov. Mike Parson ordered all Missouri public and charter schools to remain closed through the rest of the 2019-20 academic year.
The Missouri State High School Activities Association responded shortly after with their own announcement that spring sports championships were canceled.
Athletic directors at area high schools had previously worked with their coaches to plan for the possibility of spring sports season starting when school facilities were scheduled to reopen on April 27.
Kearney Athletic Director Dave Schwarzenbach said MSHSAA discussed multiple scenarios regarding how a spring sports season could be handled if school resumed as planned, but nothing had been decided before last Thursday’s announcement.
Schwarzenbach said he had an idea that this would happen, but that didn’t lessen the impact for himself or the Bulldogs’ players and coaches.
“You get it, safety first, that’s the priority,” he said. “Your thoughts and prayers are with those families that are directly affected. But it’s still disappointing for our athletes, especially our seniors.”
Kearney senior girls basketball player and track thrower Quinn Weakley sent a tweet reflecting on how she felt after finding out her senior season would be cut short.
“I can’t help but let the tears flow as I think of all the things I am leaving behind as I move onto college,” Weakley said.
Weakley thanked her parents, siblings, coaches, teammates and the Kearney School District for her experiences in this community over the last 13 years.
Smithville Athletic Director Darren Shaffer said he had conversations with his coaches about various plans for starting the spring season at the end of April, but school officials were not optimistic on that timeline based on how the COVID-19 situation was progressing.
“I think today was basically everything we saw coming, but it just made it official,” Shaffer said.
When asked before the announcement about the possibility of the season getting canceled, senior track thrower Cody McKimens said he hopes people avoid feeling down and try to find something positive to take away from the situation.
“Nothing is ever as bad as it seems,” McKimens said. “Even though we are going through a rough time, I know myself as well as the other guys on our team are going to be able to figure something out.”
Liberty North Athletic Director Bob Kernell said he remained optimistic that a shortened spring season would take place until the announcement from Parson. Kernell said the announcement was devastating because it will have such a huge impact on academics as well as sports.
“There’s so many kids that need to be seeing their teachers on a day-to-day basis and there’s teachers that really need to see their kids,” he said. “The impact is going to be felt down the road I’m sure.”
Kernell said it was a tough situation for seniors and other spring sports athletes who would be remembering their last game or meet as one from the previous year.
“It’s a sad day,” he said. “However, the sun came up this morning, a beautiful morning. In the athletic world, man, you just move on. … And that’s the mark of a good coach and program, you just move ahead and do the best with what you got.”
Liberty North baseball head coach Ryan Stegall said in a tweet that he understands and respects the decision, but that the news of spring sports getting canceled still stung.
“This team was poised to have a very memorable year,” Stegall said. “While there was obvious talent, there was so much more to this group of young men. Beginning with the offseason workouts and up until our last practice they brought energy, were prepared and determined, and approached the game like it was meant to be played.”
Liberty girls soccer coach Tyler Nash said in a tweet that the announcement made him feel a mix of emotions including anger, frustration and sadness.
“As the varsity team sat with shocked faces in our online meeting (on Thursday, talking about the season that would never be, I was filled with helplessness knowing that none of my words would ever give my players back their season,” Nash said.
Nash said he also felt grateful for the efforts by MSHSAA and the school district to support and protect all programs such as his. He said he was also grateful for this year’s group of seniors and how they handled the situation.
“I couldn’t be prouder of any one of you,” Nash said. “This is one of the many reminders that time is always too short and we can never take anything or anyone for granted.”
Liberty Athletic Director Jason Cahill has not yet been reached for comment.