CIF postpones decision on whether to cancel high school sports season over coronavirus concerns

Marina starter Chad Lux throws against Los Alamitos in the first inning of a Sunset Conference crossover game in Huntington Beach on Wednesday.
(Kevin Chang / Staff Photographer)

The CIF State office and the 10 CIF section commissioners held an online meeting on Tuesday to discuss the impact of the coronavirus on the high school sports season and whether to cancel the rest of the spring season.

The office and commissioners decided to postpone their decision, but CIF executive director Ron Nocetti left the door open for the spring sports postseason to potentially take place.

“While the time may come when we have to cancel postseason events, today is not that day,” Nocetti said in a statement. “In anticipation of further guidance and directives issued by federal, state and local government agencies regarding COVID-19, the CIF has not determined the future of spring sports events at this time and intends to reconvene with the 10 section commissioners on April 3 to revisit this issue. Pending that time, sections will continue to confer with their local leadership and the CIF [State office] will continue to monitor any directives and recommendations issued from the above entities.

“The CIF will continue to work with our schools and school districts with the health and well-being of student-athletes and school communities as our priority.”

Last week, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, which includes Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, Estancia and Newport Harbor high schools, and the Huntington Beach Union High School District, home to Edison, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Marina, Ocean View and Westminster high schools, decided to close their campuses starting Monday and postpone all athletic events until further notice because of concerns over the coronavirus.

The Laguna Beach Unified School District, home to Laguna Beach High, and the Garden Grove Unified School District, which includes Los Amigos High, as well as private schools Sage Hill, Pacifica Christian Orange County, Brethren Christian, Liberty Christian and Newport Christian also shut down their schools and postponed all sporting events.

Pacifica Christian athletic director Brandon Gonzalez, like many, thought it was the right decision to put off canceling the spring sports season in its entirety.

“It is ever-evolving, and if in a month from now things are better, I think it is every athletic director’s job to try to make it work, if nothing else, for our seniors,” Gonzalez said. “If the situation has not shown signs of improvement, then the decision to cancel the postseason makes sense, but for now, no one can 100% without a doubt predict what Southern California will look like [one or two months] from now.”

In a release to principals and athletic directors on Thursday, the Southern Section stated that it was too large, both in terms of total schools and geographic area, to have a singular response to the disease.

The section noted in the release that decisions concerning school closures, as well as the postponement or cancellation of athletic events, should be made by local schools and school districts. It also recommended that such decisions should follow the guidance of local and state health officials, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If the spread of the coronavirus persists into spring championships, the section would then assess the situation in advance of that time, as those events would fall under the control of the Southern Section office.

Newport Harbor thrower Aidan Elbettar, a UCLA commit and a two-time state medalist in the boys’ shotput, was happy to see that the track and field season has not been ruled out. He recently achieved personal-best marks of 200 feet, eight inches in the discus throw and 63-8 in the shotput in a Wave League dual meet against Marina on Wednesday.

“I think it’s pretty cool they didn’t rule it out,” Elbettar said. “However, we aren’t able to practice at school right now, which is rough, but we are working it out. I honestly don’t see the coronavirus getting any better.”

Several high-profile events that Southern Section athletes look forward to each year have already been canceled due to concerns over the pandemic.

The Boras Classic baseball tournament, which was set to begin on April 14, was among the canceled events.

In track and field, the Arcadia Invitational on April 10-11 and the Mt. SAC Relays on April 17-18 have been canceled. The Mt. SAC Relays were to return home to the new Hilmer Lodge Stadium this season after moving to El Camino College during construction.

“We are disappointed that the return of the Mt. SAC Relays to new Hilmer Lodge Stadium will be postponed,” Mt. SAC director of athletic special events Doug Todd said in a statement. “We were looking forward to showcasing our new stadium to the world, but understand and support this tough decision. The health and safety of those attending the Mt. SAC Relays must and always will come first.”

Starting Friday, sporting events involving Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley and Laguna Beach high schools will not be played indefinitely due to ongoing concern about the coronavirus.

A couple of local softball coaches felt for their seniors, in particular, because redshirt years cannot be extended, as they can, and may well, be extended at the college level.

Edison softball coach Jeremy Barnes said that he would absolutely take the chance to play an abbreviated league schedule, if that was offered.

“Definitely, I would take that,” Barnes said, whose team is off to a 7-1 record. “The way that it is playing out right now, up until the end of March, the games that we’re going to miss is one against Los [Alamitos], one against Marina, and one against Huntington Beach. If need be, we can play two games. It’s just a real difficult time.”

Huntington Beach softball coach Jeff Forsberg was concerned about the possible loss of traditional senior events, such as senior day games, prom and graduation.

“Life gives you unexpected challenges,” Forsberg said. “I told my kids on Friday, regardless of what happens, be the light to someone in need or that you love. My kids will not let me down on that, as that characteristic runs through them.”


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7:40 PM, Mar. 17, 2020: The article was updated with information on the CIF State office postponing its decision to cancel the rest of the spring sports season and it includes quotes.

This article was originally published on March 17 at 2:34 p.m.