High school spring sports in Alaska ended before even starting.
On Monday evening, the Alaska School Activities Association announced it canceled all spring sports and activities because of the novel coronavirus outbreak.
The release sent out by ASAA said the decision to cancel all activities was based on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s announcement on Friday that public and state schools would remain closed until May 1.
As of Monday evening, Alaska had 36 confirmed COVID-19 cases, all on the mainland.
Kodiak track and field coach Ashley Mortenson said the news was disappointing, but she understood the reasoning why ASAA had to cancel the season. However, she would have preferred the organization to hold off on its decision for another month.
“I’m in the boat that thinks if we have a three-week season, I’m OK with that,” Mortenson said. “Let’s celebrate the end of a crazy semester with a three-week season.”
State championships for soccer, track and field, baseball and softball were set to begin the last week of May and the first week of June, all in Anchorage.
All-state art, Esports and solo and ensemble championships were also canceled.
Mortenson, like many coaches around the state, spent Monday night replying to text messages from athletes.
“I’m mostly just sad for our seniors,” Mortenson said. “We had multiple athletes who were going for school records and a couple going for state titles. I’ve had athletes text me saying this is their favorite sport of the year and that they are so sad. I just tell them I am right there with you. I’m so sad to lose this time with them.”
Mortenson is hoping that by the end of May, she can organize a community track meet so her senior athletes could wear the Kodiak uniform one last time.
“A lot of that will depend on how the virus pans out here in town and how long we have to take safety measures,” Mortenson said. “I’m incredibly supportive of the safety measures, cancelling practices and seasons, which is done with everyone’s safety in mind.”
Kodiak baseball coach Jason Fox heard rumors about the season being canceled hours before the official release.
Still, it shocked the fourth-year coach as he felt for the seniors on his squad.
“This was their last chance to play baseball competitively. It sucks,” Fox said.
Fox said it is devastating for the state, which has seen recent growth of college-bound players, to not have a baseball season.
“I feel terrible for all the programs, which are putting in a ton of work year-round, and their kids are just not able to play games this year,” he said. “It’s Alaska, though. Our kids are resilient. Our coaches are resilient. We can make it.”
With a free spring, Fox will have more time to focus on his job as a high school counselor.
“I’m trying to figure out how to keep in touch with all my students and make sure they have what they need to get through their senior year,” he said.
After placing third at last year’s Division II state softball championship, Kodiak coach Tom Bolen was looking forward to making a run at the program’s second state title — the Bears’ last won in 2008. His dreams will be put on hold until the 2021 season.
“It is heartbreaking,” Bolen said. “To know how close we came last year and have such excitement. Everybody knows about Kodiak softball and how we rebuilt the program.”
Bolen said softball is not over for him or his players.
“If all this blows over in another couple months, and we get outside, I’m going to put together a summer team, and maybe we can do some traveling and get some excitement back for the girls,” he said.
Mortenson is still planning on making an end-of-the-season track book, which she carried over from Marcus Dunbar’s coaching tenure.
“When we have our team gatherings and pull out 20 years worth of books, this is going to be one students are pretty interested in — the year that we didn’t have a season,” Mortenson said.