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La Cañada High athletics affected by coronavirus concerns

The La Cañada Unified School District has made the decision to suspend all spring sports in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Tim Berger/La Cañada Valley Sun)

The La Cañada Unified School District took precautionary measures on March 12 in order to help slow the spread of the coronavirus

In the initial statement, the LCUSD made the decision to proceed with all sports activities involving Spartans teams without spectators at the middle and high school levels.

“None of these precautions are intended to cause increased concern or panic, but instead to provide the healthiest environments possible given the health risks identified within the larger county community,” said LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette in a statement released Thursday.

Since then, district officials have held two emergencyschool board meetings and made the decision to close down schools and transition to online lessons until at least March 27.

La Cañada officials say since there is no school, there will be no practices and no meetings with players until schools reopen. School closure is only tentative.

“School is closed through March 27 at this time,” said La Cañada assistant principal in charge of athletics and discipline Kristina Kalb in an email Tuesday. “That will continually be reevaluated as more information continues to unfold. During the school closure there are no sporting activities.”

Along with affecting athletics, the decision on March 12 included the cancellation of after school activities, events and programs involving large groups. The district also suggested meetings to be broken down into smaller groups and has canceled or postponed all field trips and multi-grade level assemblies until the end of spring break on April 12.

As well as following the guidelines suggested by the district, La Cañada High administrators are paying close attention to measures outlined by the U.S. Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the L.A. County Department of Public Health, according to Kalb, who served as the school’s athletic director for five years as well as an assistant AD for three.

“We’re taking information from all of those and making the informed and best decisions based upon what we know at any given moment, which anybody can do,” Kalb said. “Due to that, we postponed larger gathering events as been recommended by all these entities. We are looking to do the best that we can to make sure that everybody is healthy and safe as we do everyday regardless of the current situation.

“What we can continue to offer, we will. What we can’t, we’ll do our best to minimize the potential impact on students, whether it’s sports related or performance related in some other capacity. Our hope is that the spring seasons will continue.”

Despite the unprecedented situation, the La Cañada administration is no stranger to taking preventative measures during an outbreak, Kalb said.

In 2009, the H1N1 virus scare forced all sporting events to replace the large water coolers with eight-ounce water bottles to prevent contamination.

The actions come as the Spartans gear up for Rio Hondo League competition as crucial spring contests approach.

With inclement weather already a negative factor in their league title defense set to begin, the La Cañada baseball team was forced to close up shop entirely for the unforeseeable future

“Being a parent myself, not being able to go see my child or children play would be gut-wrenching,” La Cañada coach Matt Whisenant said. “But I just think people need to put things into perspective as far as what’s important right now, and right now, our health is important.”

The Spartans were off to a 1-0 start in league play, but games have been halted last week due to inclement weather.

“Whatever precautions we need to take until something gets resolved or we make big steps towards getting this pandemic handled and controlled, then we just have to follow suit on what the district is saying and be smart about it,” Whisenant said. “Make good decisions.”

First-year boys’ volleyball coach Laura Browder said it’s a difficult time for athletes and students.

“I’ve learned early in life as an athlete to control what you can control,” said Browder, whose team built an 11-4 overall start after winning just three games last season. “If we can practice, we’re going to practice. If we can play, we’re going to play. If we have to play without parents, we’ll play without parents. If we have to wash our hands in-between every set, whatever we have to do to make sure we’re being safe, I’m OK for. Ultimately, whatever the boss says, goes.”

A concerning factor for Browder is the affect on club volleyball, which can be a hotbed for scouts and recruits for upcoming talent. Coaching for SG Elite, Browder’s four upcoming tournaments have been canceled due to concerns of the coronavirus spread.

“It’s really unfortunate because, with club, you spend a lot of time and money to work hard on your skills so you can go to these travel tournaments not only to compete at a high level, but also to get recruited by colleges and whatnot,” Browder said. “I just know these decisions to cancel these tournaments affect players, clubs and coaches on so many different level.”

The LCUSD is not alone in taking steps to prevent the spread of the highly contagious infection.

Shortly after the CIF state basketball championship cancellations, CIF Southern Section Commissioner Thom Simmons released a statement pertaining to the virus and how the governing body will address certain situations.

Earlier Thursday, the CIF announced the cancellation of the state championships held in Sacramento scheduled for Friday and Saturday, which effectively ended St. Francis High basketball’s season as CIF State Division II Southern California Regional champions.

“The decision was made after careful deliberation and in the primary interest of protecting the health and safety of our member schools, fans and most importantly, our student-athletes,” Thursday’s CIF statement read. “While we understand this decision is disappointing, we strongly believe that the opportunity to compete in this event does not outweigh our obligation to place the health and safety of our member schools and school communities above all else.”

At 9 a.m, Match 12, the CIF held a conference call with participating teams, St. Francis coach Todd Wolfson said it was a brief discussion.

“It was just quick,” Wolfson said. “It’s hard. I have to go and try to keep it together and tell my seniors that they played their last game. That’s hard.”

As growing concerns over the spread of the virus swelled, professional sports as well as some of the nation’s top collegiate conferences took action to prevent further infections.

The NCAA announced that the men’s and women’s Division I basketball tournament would be held without spectators early Wednesday afternoon. Nearly 24 hours later, the organization canceled March Madness all together.

A few hours after the initial NCAA announcement, the NBA announced it will suspend the season indefinitely, and within a day, other major sports such as the MLS and NHL followed suit.

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