Alfonso “Ponch” Garcia wasn’t expecting to have much time in mid-April to work on his golf game. The Ignacio High School head football and boys track and field coach has admittedly gone once a week with assistant coach Billy Gwinn and former assistant Jared Guenthart.
“I’m not very good, but I want to learn,” Garcia said.
Ignacio High School athletic director Leo Garand definitely wasn’t expecting his first year in that capacity to more or less end with nearly a month still remaining on the Colorado High School Activities Association’s 2019-20 events calendar.
“I figure nothing worse could probably happen the rest of my career after this,” he said. “I’m dealing with about the worst-case scenario, so I feel like everything else will be easier – a lot better than this, that’s for sure.”
Reached Tuesday afternoon at a time when under normal circumstances he’d be calling shots from in a dugout or a third-base coach’s box, Bobcat baseball head coach and IHS football assistant Don Hayes may have best summarized the coronavirus-caused predicament:
“Too bad we can’t just skip past 2020, like the Leap Year that it is,” he said.
Earlier that day, such a sentiment was undoubtedly shared throughout the Centennial State; instead of continuing to hold out for a possible restart and truncated season, CHSAA elected to cancel – a decision coming 11 days before the original May 2 target – outright all sanctioned spring sports, effectively ending its athletic year.
Spring sports had hung in limbo until April 30 at the earliest.
“Around the nation, more than 30 other state associations have made the difficult decision to cancel their spring season. We hoped that Colorado medical and health data would provide reassurances that we could go in a different direction. Unfortunately that will not be the case. The spring 2020 season is canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which is affecting communities across the world,” CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green was quoted as saying in a statement e-mailed from the office of Assistant Commissioner Bert Borgmann. “This decision, unlike the many decisions our office makes over the course of a year, has been extremely difficult because we are personally connected as former participants and officials, current parents and grandparents of graduating seniors, as well as educators and members of our high school communities.”
Ignacio coaches had come to expect the news, but it still hit hard.
I think it’s heartbreaking, but not unexpected. Like, I think we all knew in our gut this was going to happen,” said IHS girls soccer coach Alisha Gullion.
“Yeah, it’s disappointing, but it is what it is,” Garand said. “I’m very proud of my coaching staffs; they continued to send out workouts and words of encouragement, things like that to their athletes to keep them prepared in case we did have a chance to at least have an abbreviated season.”
“To give them an opportunity to participate, whether good or not, it didn’t matter,” added Garcia. “It’s all about them, you know? Everything I love to do, it’s because when I was a kid someone did that for me.
“A lot of our kids are very disappointed. We’d been giving workouts and stuff, everything they needed. We were really looking forward to it. It’s horrible, you know? I guess the worst part of the whole thing, not being able to see those seniors compete and see where they’re at, and what they could have done at state.”
Noting that CHSAA will continue to follow mandated safety/health guidelines until June 1 “even if all federal and state guidelines are relaxed” but “will not sanction or conduct events after June 1,” the commissioner said that building/ and facility usage after June 1 would be determined by school-district personnel, and contact between athletes and coaches would also be regulated on similar local levels.
“The CHSAA Board of Directors, Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and staff strongly recommend that federal and state guidelines are adhered to after June 1,” said Blanford-Green. “We continue to maintain that public safety and monitoring of data points must take precedence over the desire to conduct activity and athletic practices, camps, scrimmages or events.”
“Our fingers are now crossed and our hopes are that the Association will be able to conduct a fall season with some level of normalcy. Our office will be entirely focused on contingency plans for the 2020 fall season and beyond, should they be needed.”
“It’s a whole different world,” Gullion said, reached while grading students’ homework after another day of online teaching. “We’re just trying to get all the kids through, get them set up for next year.”