The OHSAA Indefinitely Suspends Winter and Spring Athletics

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all Ohio athletic programs of every level to shut down, leaving student-athletes with questions of their future


Mae Nagusky

Russell H. Rupp stadium remains locked on March 17.

In keeping with school closures mandated to slow the spread of COVID-19, all athletic programs are also suspended until further notice. “This postponement includes all practices, games, meetings and/or team activities,” Assistant Athletic Director Michael Babinec stated in a March 12 email sent to all Shaker high athletes.

Also on March 12, the Ohio High School Athletic Association announced that all remaining OHSAA postseason winter tournaments were postponed until further notice. Shaker’s men’s basketball and wrestling teams will have to wait for OHSAA approval in order to resume their postseason tournaments. 

The men’s basketball team (21-5) — who defeated Canton McKinley 83-71 in the Division I regional semifinal — was supposed to play Mentor in the regional final March 14, with the winner going to the state semifinals.

Junior DeAndre Hall said he is happy with the Raiders’ success but is also disappointed about the postponement. 

“The fact that we have to wait now makes it hard, because we were all looking forward to playing Mentor in the playoffs, because they beat us twice this year. This would have been the first time in many years that the team went down to Columbus, so I feel that we are really sad about it,” Hall said. 

Before the suspension of the postseason tournaments, the remaining teams were allowed to play with four family members per teammate in attendance, with the exception of approved media members and cheerleaders. This requirement resulted in a sparse crowd for the regional semifinal game, which was live streamed on multiple platforms. 

 Junior varsity head coach and assistant varsity basketball coach Kevin Foster said he’s never seen anything like this before. “It’s kind of crazy to think we’re gonna have a season without champs and not even finish the season. I feel bad for the five seniors that we have and all the hard work they put in for four years to get to this point,” he said.

Foster said that everyone is in shock. “I really thought this team had what it took to get to Columbus and to possibly not even get a shot — I feel for them and I know they’re heartbroken,” he said.

Senior wrestler Najee Lockett qualified to compete in the Division I state championship after winning his match at the Perrysburg District finals March 6. Last year, Lockett went 41-1 and was state runner up for the 170-lb. weight class. 

The indefinite suspension stunned Lockett. “The moment it happened, I was in shock. I was walking down the hallway, and someone told me they canceled it, and even then I didn’t believe it. I was literally going through my entire contacts list on my phone because I couldn’t believe it.” 

David Vahey
The varsity basketball team huddles during a timeout in the regional semifinal against Canton McKinley March 11 at Cleveland State University. Only four family members per player were permitted in the arena.

“I had a lot of emotion after I heard the news — devastation and just mainly confusion,” Lockett said. “I believe I have already had my last match as a high schooler wrestler. This is like a movie that had a really bad ending.” Lockett will continue his wrestling career at Cornell University. 

Spring season sports are also all suspended state-wide. According to a March 13 written statement by the OHSAA Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass, coaches may not contact athletes. “A mandatory non-contact is in full effect for all school-sponsored sports March 17-April 5, 2020. Additionally, there will be a mandatory shutdown of facilities used for the purpose of conducting athletic activities from March 17 – April 5, 2020,” he stated.

The OHSAA also recommended all schools cancel out-of-state travel. The varsity baseball team was going to travel to Puerto Rico for the break, but due to the outbreak of the virus, this trip, along with all other school-funded trips out of the country and state, were canceled. 

“I never saw this outbreak getting to this point,” assistant varsity baseball coach Stefan English said. “We’ve been through a few things like this in the past that have been pretty similar, but those things have never really escalated to where we’re at now. This is something I never saw coming.” 

English said of the 18 varsity baseball players, 14 are seniors. “The group of kids we had this year was very senior-heavy, so my heart goes out to all of those guys,” he said. “Knowing how enthusiastic they were for the upcoming season, and then to see it stripped from them from something that’s totally out of their hands is kind of heartbreaking for me as a coach.” 

Despite the cancellation of practices, athletes such as senior track captain Vivek Divekarla still want to hold captain practices to stay in shape. But OHSAA Director of Communications Tim Stried discouraged captain-led practices. In response, Shaker closed access to the high school turf and track. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also announced the closure of gyms and fitness centers March 16.   

However, student-athletes are still trying to find ways to practice despite the suspension and closing of facilities.

Divekarla said as a captain, it’s been difficult. “We still have no clue whether we are going to have a season. Yet, we still have to motivate our athletes to come out and practice. On the other hand I believe that our sport probably has it easier than everyone else has, since we don’t need a group of 10-15 to have our practices,” he said. 

Varsity softball player Eliza Bennett said they have not practiced since the suspension. “So far, the softball team has done nothing as far as practices,” she said. “Our coach is being very strict on not meeting up to play or doing any activity with other people. Some of my teammates and I have been discussing just doing a fun scrimmage this upcoming week, as well as hopefully holding some captain practices.” 

The OHSAA will hold a press conference March 19 to update the fate of winter postseason tournaments as well as provide further information about the plan for spring sports. 

The Shakerite will continue to cover this story as it develops.

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