Current senior Bela Torres observes a tough offensive inning during the 2019 season. The Bobcats' top option to start at second base in '20, Torres and multiple classmates had their prep careers – whether on the diamond, soccer pitch, or track – cut short by CHSAA's April 21 decision to officially cancel all spring sports due to coronavirus concerns.
With 'Chap-Stick' tube temporarily secured, Ignacio's Lonicia O'John (21) works on goalkeeper Jaylene Riepel's gloves during a pause in play at IHS Field in Spring 2019. Now seniors, the two Lady 'Cats and several more will now be unable to play their final season; due to the coronavirus pandemic, CHSAA chose Tuesday morning, April 21, to officially cancel all 2020 spring sports.
Ignacio High School Track & Field sprinters prepare to burst out of the starting blocks during a 2019 practice. Tuesday morning, April 21, CHSAA chose to officially cancel Spring 2020 sports, erasing any last hopes the Bobcat thinclads had of a shortened season.
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
Photo Credit: Joel Priest | Special to the Drum
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CHSAA pulls the plug; Bobcat bosses react

Springtime prep sports scrapped statewide

Alfonso ‘Ponch’ Garcia wasn’t expecting to have much time in mid-April to work on his golf game.

“Been going, maybe, once a week, you know? Me, Billy (IHS Football assistant coach Gwinn) and Jared (former IHS Football assistant coach Guenthart), we’ve been going out there,” he admitted.

“I’m not very good, but I want to learn.”

Ignacio High School Assistant Principal/Athletics & Activities Director Leo Garand definitely wasn’t expecting his first year in that capacity to more or less end with nearly a month still remaining on the Colorado High School Activities Association’s 2019-20 events calendar.

“I figure nothing worse could probably happen, the rest of my career, after this,” he said. “I’m dealing with about the worst-case scenario, so I feel like everything else will be … easier, a lot better than this. That’s for sure.”

Reached Tuesday afternoon, April 21, at a time when under normal circumstances he’d be calling shots from in a dugout or a third-base coach’s box, Bobcat Baseball head coach/IHS Football assistant Don Hayes may have best summarized the coronavirus-caused predicament:

“Too bad we can’t just skip past 2020 … . Like the Leap Year that it is.”

Earlier that day, such a sentiment was undoubtedly shared throughout the Centennial State; instead of continuing to hold out for a possible restart and truncated season, CHSAA elected to cancel – a decision coming 11 days before the original May 2 target – outright all sanctioned spring sports, effectively ending its athletic year.

Spring sports had hung in limbo until April 30 at the earliest.

“Around the nation, more than 30 other state associations have made the difficult decision to cancel their spring season. We hoped that Colorado medical and health data would provide reassurances that we could go in a different direction. Unfortunately that will not be the case. The spring 2020 season is cancelled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which is affecting communities across the world,” Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green was quoted as saying, in a statement e-mailed from the office of Assistant Commissioner Bert Borgmann.

“This decision, unlike the many decisions our office makes over the course of a year, has been extremely difficult because we are personally connected as former participants and officials, current parents and grandparents of graduating seniors, as well as educators and members of our high school communities.”

“We got an e-mail this morning from Rocco Fuschetto, [Ignacio School District Superintendent] that we will not be returning to in-person school the rest of the school year,” said Lady Bobcat Soccer head coach Alisha Gullion, one of any number of skippers, from the Four Corners out to Colorado’s own four corners, hoping to have any chance of seeing her players perform.

“I think it’s heartbreaking … but not unexpected. Like, I think we all knew in our gut this was going to happen.”

“In the best interest of the health of not only the kids, but everybody they come in contact with, and seeing how upper-level athletics have terminated much earlier … in the year, I felt it was inevitable,” concurred Hayes. “You know, you do feel for the seniors, but hopefully they see that there’s a bigger issue, a bigger picture than just one man or one … season.”

“Yeah, it’s disappointing, but it is what it is,” Garand said. “I’m very proud of my coaching staffs; they continued to send out workouts and words of encouragement, things like that to their athletes – to keep them prepared, in case we did have a chance to at least have an abbreviated season.”

“To give them an opportunity to participate … whether good or not, it didn’t matter,” added Garcia, Ignacio Football/Boys’ Track & Field head coach. “It’s all about them, you know? Everything I love to do … it’s because when I was a kid someone did that for me.”

“A lot of our kids are very disappointed. We’d been giving workouts and stuff, everything they needed. We were really looking forward to it,” he continued. “It’s … horrible, you know? I guess the worst part of the whole thing: Not being able to see those seniors compete and see where they’re at, and what they could have done at State.”

“Knowing that the health and safety of our sports communities would dictate our course of action,” said Blanford-Green, “it was our hope to be able to create the memories because we understood what it meant to our high school communities – especially seniors – statewide.”

“Our hats are off to the many seniors that have shown maturity and resolve as their culminating year of high school has been impacted beyond activities and athletics,” she said. “The Class of 2020 will not be forgotten.”

“My heart really goes out to them. It’s their last season of their last year, and we were hoping to try to get something together,” stated Garand. “But it … just wasn’t to be.”

Noting that CHSAA will continue to follow mandated safety/health guidelines until June 1 “even if all federal and state guidelines are relaxed” but “will not sanction or conduct events after June 1,” the commissioner said that building/facility usage after June 1 would be determined by school-district personnel, and contact between athletes and coaches would also be regulated on similar local bases.

“The CHSAA Board of Directors, Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and staff strongly recommend that federal and state guidelines are adhered to after June 1,” said Blanford-Green. “We continue to maintain that public safety and monitoring of data points must take precedence over the desire to conduct activity and athletic practices, camps, scrimmages or events.”

“Our fingers are now crossed and our hopes are that the Association will be able to conduct a fall season with some level of normalcy. Our office will be entirely focused on contingency plans for the 2020 fall season and beyond, should they be needed.”

“It’s a whole different world,” Gullion said, reached while grading students’ homework after another day of Web-based teaching. “We’re just trying to get all the kids through, get them set up for next year.”

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