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Tue, March 02

AIA cancels 2021 winter sports due to COVID-19

VERDE VALLEY — Friday, the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s executive board voted 5-to-4 to cancel the 2021 winter sports season.

The board’s decision, according to a media release by an AIA Sports Information Coordinator Seth Polansky, was recommended by the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee because of “the continued presence of COVID-19 and (Arizona) having the nation’s highest rate of coronavirus hospitalizations.”

“We do not see the situation improving very quickly,” Executive Board President Toni Corona stated in the media release. “Unfortunately, it does not appear that there will be adequate time before the start of the spring season for a winter season to occur.”

Shortly after the AIA’s decision was announced on social media, Camp Verde junior Garrett Dulaney said that “none of the (school’s) wrestlers are happy” with the decision to cancel the season.

“A big reason why I wrestle is because of the competition,” Dulaney said. “Wrestling isn’t easy, and when you put tons of hard work in and you win matches, it feels really good. I still have another year, thank the Lord, but I’m definitely going to miss it. As for wrestling with my teammates, it’s nice because you have a second family behind your back to support you in your goals. I feel horrible for the seniors because this is it for them.”

Camp Verde Athletic Director Dan Wall said Friday that with the extremity of COVID-19 since March when the state’s schools initially shut down, the board’s decision really wasn’t a surprise.

“I’m really disappointed for the kids,” Wall said. It’s really a tough day. The biggest thing for me as athletic director is getting kids involved in extracurricular activities. How do we keep them engaged (between now and spring)? We’ll be looking at all sorts of options.”

Camp Verde loses out on fielding boys and girls basketball teams, as well as wrestling. Mingus Union will not field boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, or wrestling.

“I have been in correspondence with my coaches, (however) I have not had any direct contact with families or athletes at this time,” Mingus Union Athletic Director Yancey DeVore said. “I can only imagine how difficult it is for them.”

The AIA also decided that this year’s spring sports season – scheduled to start on March 1 – would be dependent on the improvement of statewide metrics, as well as additional evaluation by Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and the AIA executive board.

“While we understand the board’s position, we are saddened by this decision, especially considering that club sports are continuing,” AIA Executive Director David Hines stated. “To the best of our knowledge, never in our 100-plus-year history has the AIA canceled an entire season. We want nothing more than for our students to be active in school and participating in interscholastic sports and activities.”

Hines also stated that it is his “sincerest hope that all Arizonans will follow the CDC and Arizona Health guidelines by wearing masks, washing hands frequently, and practicing social distance to decrease cases and hospitalizations. If for no other reason, I hope we can do it for the kids.”

Frequently asked questions

Why are college-level sports in Arizona continuing to play but not high school sports?

Arizona Interscholastic Association: Daily testing occurs for all collegiate athletes. Based on this testing, approximately 50% of all play is being canceled. Unfortunately, there are no mechanisms or systems that would support daily COVID-19 testing of 30,000 high students who participate in winter sports.

Infection rates and death rates are incredibly low for people under 18. Why are we preventing kids from playing?

AIA: It is true that COVID-19 is not as severe for high school age individuals and rarely results in death or long-term impact. The bigger concern is that students may lose the ability to receive timely care in case of injury due to hospital capacity issues. Hospitals are repurposing floors as COVID-19 units to support the growing cases. In recent days, some hospitals have repurposed their pediatric floors to handle COVID-19 caseloads.

Why is there so much concern about hospital bed capacity? What does this have to do with high school sports?

AIA: Hospital bed capacity is not just an indicator of space, but also health care personnel availability. There is a concern that continuing winter sports as originally scheduled could impact community spread and potentially impact an injured student’s ability to receive care.

Club sports are continuing throughout the state. Why is this a problem for interscholastic sports?

AIA: Interscholastic sports are education-based and an extension of the classroom. Districts and school boards have a tough job and community duty to make decisions based on medical experts’ advice and county-specific COVID-19 data.

What does this mean for spring sports?

AIA: It is not possible to know what the specific landscape will look like in future months. If metrics and hospital capacity improve to the levels achieved in the fall, the association anticipates holding a spring sports season.

-- Arizona Interscholastic Association

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