Newport-Mesa students won’t return to school before June 1, effectively ending high school sports season

Estancia's Garrett Palme celebrates after his walk-off hit in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the Eagles to a 1-0 win over Savanna in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs at home on May 2, 2019.
Estancia’s Garrett Palme celebrates after his walk-off hit in the bottom of the eighth inning lifted the Eagles to a 1-0 win over Savanna in the first round of the CIF Southern Section Division 5 playoffs at home on May 2, 2019.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The high school sports season for Corona del Mar, Costa Mesa, Estancia and Newport Harbor has most likely ended.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District made the decision on Tuesday night to postpone a return to the classroom until at least June 1. Previously, the district had planned on resuming in-person classes on April 13, but distance learning is being extended as the coronavirus continues to spread.

As it relates to high school sports within the district, the decision essentially rules out athletic competition for the remainder of the school year.

“It might extend past that date, too,” Newport Harbor High athletic director Jerry Murray said. “We don’t know, but while we’re shut down, there’s no practice, there’s no games, no nothing.”

State Supt. of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond indicated that it would be unlikely for public school campuses to reopen by the end of the school year.

Citing concerns over spreading the coronavirus, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced public schools will be closed for the rest of the academic year.

As the coronavirus threatens to put an end to senior staples like prom and graduation, there is one thing that the pandemic will not be able to take away. That is the relationships made beforehand.

Spring sports were put on hold the week that the Estancia baseball team would have squared off with rival Costa Mesa at Angel Stadium on March 13. Like many of his teammates, Eagles senior catcher Garrett Palme was disappointed to miss out on that moment, but he took solace in what he had experienced with his team.

“I made a lot of friends,” Palme said. “They’re friendships that are going to last a long time, so that’s what’s really been valuable about my time with them.

“I’m proud of my teammates and what we did, especially last season, too, in our run to the [CIF Southern Section Division 5] quarterfinals. Those are things I’ll never forget. I am pleased about those things.”

Palme plans on playing baseball in college. While team activities have been sidelined, Palme said he is working on his flexibility by doing yoga with his twin sisters, Jessica and Jenna, who he said are dancers.

Eliana Gottlieb, a junior outfielder for the Newport Harbor softball team, said she has been keeping her skills sharp by practicing with her father, Jay. Coming off a season in which the Sailors won the Wave League championship, the first in program history, Gottlieb greatly misses the game.

“We were building off last season and looking to move forward and even win more games outside of league,” Gottlieb said. “We wanted to repeat that league title, and it isn’t happening right now, which is really sad, but you kind of have to deal with it.

“You’ve got to think about the people that are having a hard time with this whole pandemic situation, and you want to focus on seeing the bigger picture, [rather] than the softball games.”

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.

Although the hope to return to the classroom by April 13 did not go according to plan, Steve Moreno, who coaches cross-country and track and field at Costa Mesa, does not mind setting target dates. He thinks it is good to be cautiously optimistic.

“I think people need hope,” said Moreno, who called the situation unprecedented. “I think it just allows something that we can kind of shoot for and hope for, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think it’s OK to put it out there.

“I still communicate with my athletes via email, and I make sure that they can text me. They can email me. I’m sending out workouts that they can do at home or in their neighborhood, following the guidelines that are provided by the federal, state and local laws.”

Murray urged students to think about their families as they deal with the fallout from these trying times.

“Just take care of your family, stay healthy, and we’ll get through this and life will go on,” Murray said. “We’ve got to do this, and we’ve got to take care of everybody.

“They’ve got to understand that they’re young and their chances of getting [COVID-19] isn’t that bad, but the older people around them, their parents and grandparents, … are more susceptible, and we’ve just got to keep everybody healthy. Everybody’s got to do their part.”


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