ALL Winter Sports Canceled: Will Spring Sports be Next?

After a petition to the CIAC goes viral, DHS athletes face-off against the distinct possibility that spring sports seasons may be pandemic’s next victim.

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Credit: Brian A. Pounds: Hearst Connecticut Media

On Tuesday March 10th, all winter athletes received the devastating news that the rest of their seasons had been canceled. This decision was made by the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) in order to ensure the safety of all athletes and spectators.

According to CIAC Executive Director Mr. Glenn Lungarini, “We must always place the health and safety of our student athletes first.” Lungarini believes that in cancelling the winter sports seasons, it would be beneficial for the health and safety of both athletes and spectators. The decision made by the CIAC was announced just over 24 hours before the Board of Education canceled classes at all Darien Public Schools.

In response to the CIAC’s decision, former Fairfield Prep student Jake Walker created a petition to propose the idea of continuing the CIAC winter tournament without spectators. Over 100,000 people signed the petition; it was shared all over social media to people who do not even live in Connecticut, but they were demonstrating their support for the student athletes.

In the opening lines of the petition, Walker said, “To the CIAC, you have broken the hearts of all players, families, and coaches involved in this year’s winter sports tournament competition. Most notably those seniors who have dedicated their entire lives to their respective sports, many of whom will never play again after this year. This meant everything to them. These tournaments are something they cannot get back.”

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Students from all over CT speaking out (Credit: The Zone)

Walker’s words could not have been said better, and his words inspired five Darien High School hockey players to stage a protest at the CIAC’s offices on March 11th. DHS senior Cole Branca told the New Haven Register that “When we [fellow players Cole Branca, Matt Fiorita, Jack Massey, Bennett McDermott, and Max Sharp] saw that petition we felt we needed to do something too and decided to organize a protest at the CIAC.” The five seniors from DHS spread the word out to hundreds of student athletes across Connecticut that afternoon about the protest, little did they know this would spark something big.

We thought we’d get some people to show up, but to see hundreds of people here is amazing, it’s really unbelievable.””

— Cole Branca to New Haven Register

Though they are rivals on the courts and at the rink, Connecticut athletes all came together to form a protest at CIAC headquarters up in Cheshire at 10am on Wednesday, March 11th. Over 300 student athletes  as well as parents and coaches from all over the state came to try to convince Lungarini to let them play. Posters, chants, groups were formed surrounding the building trying to make change.

The news spread quickly and the decision became known nationally; people were spreading the petition all over social media in hoping that it would get enough signatures and make a difference. The media was filled with coverage – popular Twitter account Barstool Sports, with over 2.2M followers, even had something to say about the whole situation.

Being a member of the girls ice hockey team, having the rest of the season canceled is shattering for me as well as my fellow seniors. The entire team has worked so hard all season up to the state tournament and we got everything taken away from us. The seniors will never play in our last games, or get to play the last shift; our season ended before we all knew it was over.

Senior Captain of the Girls Ice Hockey Team senior Caitlin Chan says: “At the beginning of the season our team was overlooked but as the season progressed we really proved our worth when we went on to beat some of our top rivals such as New Canaan, Greenwich, and Simsbury.”

Chan believes that after winning FCIACs and then making it to the state semi-finals, the team had a great shot at the state finals. “While I understand the CIAC’s concern regarding the virus, I believe that there was a better solution to the problem” Chan states. Taking away the entire state tournament and not allowing room for compromise was not the best move that they could have taken. There are better ways to solve the issue than what the CIAC decided to do, removing it from everyone.

However, not all teams at DHS suffered from CIAC cancelling the state tournament. Senior captain of the ski team Katie Lane says “I’m really grateful that the ski season wasn’t cut short- we were lucky because our last race of the season (State Opens) was on March 2nd, before Coronavirus really hit Connecticut.” The ski team was able to conclude its season before any cancellations began. Both the boys and girls teams placed fifth in the state and skiers Sammi Lindell, Chase Galicia, and John Fallon were named to the All State girls and boys teams. Lane says how “the end of a successful sports season is always a really fun celebration, and I’m just super grateful that the ski team got to have that.”

Packed Gym (Credit: News Break)

In addition to all winter sports being canceled in Connecticut, there have been many other things that have been canceled due to COVID-19. The NHL season is canceled as well as the NBA and NCAA, and MLB post-poned, it would not be surprising if CIAC decides to also cancel all spring sports.

These cancellations are very upsetting to the seniors who have worked so hard all their careers to get here and play their last games and seasons. For some of these seniors this will be the last time ever playing their sport, but due to health and safety concerns, sports potentially could be taken away from them.

The FCIAC is planning on having a meeting on Monday, March 16th to discuss spring sports and the CIAC is having a meeting on Wednesday the 18th. Sadly, with the spread of confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Connecticut, there may be little hope that spring sports will be able to take place. The class of 2020 will be missing out on many rituals and events they have waited their whole lives for.