KCAC, KJCCC suspend play; KSHSAA cancels remainder of State basketball tournaments in wake of coronavirus

Lady Tigers Field on the campus of Cowley College sits empty on a dreary Friday afternoon in Arkansas City. The KJCCC has suspended all sporting activity until at least April 3, delaying the renaming of this field in honor of Hall of Fame coach Ed Hargrove, which was scheduled for next Saturday.

As expected, the coronavirus pandemic cancellations have trickled down into the local college and high school ranks, and could impose on the start of the high school spring season.

The Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, of which Southwestern College is a member, shut down play following Thursday’s events.

“Effective immediately, the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) has suspended indefinitely all athletic-related practice, travel, and competitions for the athletics programs for its member institutions. The KCAC Board of Presidents took action on this decision Friday morning,” according to a release on the KCAC website.

“Protecting the health, safety and well-being of student-athletes is the conference’s highest priority. The KCAC Board of Presidents views this decision as the necessary step in addressing the public’s concern with the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. 

“The KCAC Board of Presidents will communicate frequently in the days ahead to determine when and if the suspension can be lifted. The KCAC will continue to work closely with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in determining when and if NAIA Spring 2020 Championships will be played.

“In considering when and if the suspension can be lifted, conference officials will look to establish a date when practices can resume, followed by a subsequent date when competitions can resume.”

The Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, where Cowley College competes, also shut its doors after the conclusion of Thursday’s schedule.

The move forced the Tigers to cancel the Cowley Tiger Invitational track and field meet scheduled for March 28.

“Based on the latest developments and the continued spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference, with support from the conference President’s Council, announces the cancellation of all regular season competition for all teams, effective Friday, March 13 through April 3,” the conference posted on its website. “This time will allow everyone to assess the current situation and plan accordingly.  Member colleges and the media will be kept updated through this time as we navigate through this.”

The Cowley softball team swept Cloud County in a conference twinbill Thursday at Lady Tigers Field, but doubleheaders Thursday at Hesston and next Saturday at home against Kansas City have been postponed. In fact, the entire conference schedule is halted until at least April 1.

Today’s games were to include a field-dedication ceremony, in which Lady Tigers Field was to be renamed in honor of Hall of Fame coach Ed Hargrove.

“My frustration comes only for the athletes who have worked so hard for this moment in their season, or the athletes that have been able to qualify for Nationals and now it’s potentially going to be taken from them,” Cowley coach Jenny Hoyt said. “However, I respect the decision of our college administrators and the NJCAA for putting the student-athletes’ health a priority. I just pray that good news comes next week for all.”

High schools have been practicing for the spring sports season since March 2.

The season is scheduled to begin with girls soccer on March 24 — Arkansas City is slated to play at Mulvane, while Winfield is scheduled to play at Augusta.

“We are supposed to get some information in regards to the situation later (Friday) afternoon or evening,” ACHS athletic director Aaron Bucher said Friday.

Prep baseball and softball season are scheduled to open March 27, with the Bulldogs playing doubleheaders at Goddard.

“I don’t think they’ve done anything with high school yet,” ACHS softball coach Angie Ruyle said. “I do worry that it is coming and (Friday) at practice I visited with my girls and said to not be surprised if something happens. We just have to trust the people making the decisions — the ones in the healthcare field. And to start taking precautions now, like not sharing water bottles anymore, (and) washing hands like we’ve been taught.”

The ACHS alumni softball game was canceled, but that was due to rain in the forecast.

Far from the only casualty, though.

The Kansas State High School Activities Association canceled the remainder of State basketball tournaments throughout the state.

First-round games were completed Wednesday and Thursday, but the KSHSAA canceled the semifinal and placer games, effectively ending the season.

“After the conclusion of the quarterfinal round, the 2020 KSHSAA State Basketball Tournament will be canceled,” the KSHSAA posted on its website. “Given the escalating concerns regarding COVID-19, the best decision for the safety of the student-athletes and spectators was to cancel the remainder of this championship tournament. The KSHSAA regrets the lost opportunity for teams and players that have worked to achieve their goals.”

Since most college programs are in hiatus until April 1, some fear the effects could trickle into the spring sports season for high school teams.

“If (the season) does get halted, it’s going to be very upsetting for especially our seniors, as we do have 10 of them and have worked their whole lives for this,” Ruyle said. “We just have to practice every day like it’s our last and hopefully we will get to be on that field in two weeks.

“If they do make any decisions, I hope they go by weeks and not just cancel it outright.”

Winfield High baseball coach Shawn Bennett said they’ve been told not to comment on the situation.

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