CASPER, Wyo. — All spring extracurricular activities have been suspended through at least March 28, the Wyoming High School Activities Association Board of Directors announced Friday. That delays the start of soccer and track and field competition by two weeks — although individual schools can continue spring sports practices, which began Monday.
The association also stated in the release that the Wyoming State High School Class 4A/3A Basketball Championships won’t be rescheduled. Originally scheduled for this weekend, the state basketball tournaments and the state speech meet were the first events canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two confirmed cases in Wyoming as of Friday night, when the state announced an older Fremont County man had tested positive.
“We understand the tremendous disappointment this decision is for our student athletes, especially our seniors, but please realize that we must be a responsible state organization and that our highest priority is ensuring the safety of our students, schools and communities,” the WHSAA statement read.
The imposed suspension was slated to begin on Monday. Member schools may take their own individual precautions for practices if circumstances in their districts necessitate stricter safety protocol.
“The WHSAA staff will continue to work diligently with the state entities that are experts in this area and follow their guidance as we proceed in determining the best course of action with the remainder of the spring activities. We encourage all our schools to do the same with their local and county experts,” the release said.
Nine tournaments and meets were scheduled for competition before the suspension announcement, three of those being soccer tournaments: the East/West JV Jamboree in Gillette, the Southwest Invitational in Green River and the Pinnacle Cup in Worland. The previously season-opening Casper Jamboree was not scheduled to take place before the suspension. Prominent track meets that won’t take place due to the suspension include: the Glen Legler Memorial Invite and Natrona County Invitational (both at NC), Wind River Track Invitational in Pavillion, Laura Chord Track Memorial Invitational in Newcastle and Bill Gerrard Track Invitational in Greybull.
Greybull is a member of Big Horn County School District, which was already strongly advised against large public gatherings as part of a Level 2 Health Alert issued late Thursday evening by Big Horn County Health Officer Dr. David Fairbanks. Fairbanks collaborated with state and federal agencies to investigate a potential coronavirus exposure of a Big Horn County student or group of students from what he referred to as “an extracurricular sporting event.”
Greybull head track coach Jeff Sukut saw the health alert but didn’t know about the possible student exposure. He said that he and his 30 track athletes will continue to practice with business as usual while also looking into holding some inter-squad competition and possibly a track dual during the suspension.
“Cancel a few track meets gives us about a month of a season,” Sukut said. “That would be better than them canceling the whole season but we’re at the mercy of the state of Wyoming and at a national level.”
Kelly Walsh boys soccer coach Bryan Chadderdon found the WHSAA’s decision encouraging. He’d looked at other state activity associations’ reactions and found the two-week suspension sensible. That means they lost roughly the same amount of games to start this season as they did last year due to travel conditions brought by inclement weather.
“We’re so fraught with weather and all that, so it’s not unusual to be down in matches by that time anyway,” Chadderdon said. “In the past, jamborees get canceled and games get canceled. You get a few of those back. All things considered, that’s encouraging.”
Chadderdon also said that he messaged Kelly Walsh activities director AJ Nathan about plans for the future. Natrona County School District’s spring break occurs a week after the suspension’s scheduled end. He thought since families likely won’t travel the way they usually do, that could be a chance to schedule more games.
In the meantime, Sukut and Chadderdon and coaches across Wyoming returned to practice in hopes of maintaining normalcy.
“Sports is important to our kids and it keeps things normal,” Chadderdon said. “If we can keep things as normal as possible and still be safe then I think we should do that.”