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On Monday, James Wood boys’ soccer coach Brian Sullivan posted pictures on Twitter of the school’s baseball and soccer fields with the caption, “Picture perfect fields, what a sight! Here’s to hoping they see a little action this summer!”

There won’t be anyone with a high school uniform playing at any Virginia high school facility this summer, though. The Virginia High School League made that official on Thursday.

Due to COVID-19 concerns, the VHSL Executive Committee was nearly unanimous in its decision to cancel the rest of the high school spring sports season (31 people voted for the measure, and one person abstained). The status of fall sports and out-of-season practices that take place in July will be discussed at the next VHSL Executive Committee meeting on June 25.

On March 24, the VHSL left open the possibility that it might permit spring sports to be played during the summer. VHSL Executive Director Billy Haun said in a news release on Thursday that COVID-19 would no longer have to be a health risk in order to go ahead with spring sports.

“Sadly, the situation has not changed and has made it impossible to have a spring season without putting people at risk,” Haun said.

“While we recognize the importance sports has on our students and communities, we need to follow all the regulations and recommendations from the Governor, the Virginia Department of Health, and the CDC. Every decision we make, and will make looking forward, will be in the best interest of our student-athletes and the public. Safety will always be our number one priority.”

In mid-March, in the first week after Frederick County Public Schools were closed down because of COVID-19, James Wood coordinator of student activities Craig Woshner remained hopeful that spring sports could still take place in the summer.

But on March 30, Gov. Ralph Northam shut down the schools for the rest of the year and issued a stay-at-home order in which he banned gatherings of more than 10 people. And when news reports failed to show improvement with COVID-19, Woshner’s optimism faded.

“It’s extremely disappointing,” Woshner said. “[Love of sports is] why I do my job, that’s why our coaches do their jobs, that’s why kids work as hard as they do.

“All the investment that parents give to their kids, whether they’re seniors or any grade level, they put a maximum amount of investment into trying to give our kids the opportunity to compete. It’s extremely disappointing when we can’t have that happen.”

In particular, Woshner feels for the seniors, who not only missed out on competing and Senior nights this spring but also the other significant events like proms and a normal graduation that takes place in front of hundreds of people instead of an individualized ceremony.

Some of those seniors will be competing at the college level and have something to look forward to, but the vast majority will never get to compete for a school-sponsored team again.

“This was their year to shine,” Woshner said. “I feel really bad for the kids, especially those kids who, this was their final chance to wear blue and gold, and they’re not going to get that opportunity.”

Handley director of student activities Reed Prosser said the idea of no spring sports isn’t easy to handle.

“Everybody knew [this decision] was coming, but at the end of the day the finality of it all, making it official, really hurts, really stings,” Prosser said. “It’s disappointing, but it’s understandable. The safety of the kids and where we are as a society right now, it’s the right thing to do.

“Certainly, the amount of time and effort and energy these kids, these families, these coaches have put in, it’s difficult. We all understand it’s just sports, but at the end of the day, it’s still something that a lot of our kids have invested time and energy in, and you have to respect that.”

James Wood baseball coach Adrian Pullen responded “Let’s play ball! @VHSL_” to Sullivan’s tweet on Monday. So learning of the VHSL’s decision on Thursday wasn’t easy.

“I was still hopeful today that we would get a favorable decision,” Pullen said. “I feel for not only the seniors but all the kids that lost a year of their high school career that they won’t get back.”

Sullivan said he understands why the reasoning for the VHSL’s decision, but it’s still hard to deal with.

“I feel for the seniors most importantly, I feel for all the kids who put in so much work in the offseason,” Sullivan said. “So much of high school sports is not just a spring season. It’s an all-year-round thing. I know we start training in summertime for the following spring. Kids are putting in six, seven months of work preparing for the season.

“To get right to the start of the season and have it taken away, it’s tough. It’s tough for the players, it’s tough being a coach. Our seniors won three games [as sophomores], then 10 last year, so it was kind of a big growth process for them. I’m heartbroken for them. But we talk about handling adversity, and I’m proud of how they’ve handled adversity.”

Woshner’s son Nathaniel is a sophomore distance runner on James Wood’s track & field team, and Woshner noted that it’s difficult putting everything into a sport when you don’t know when you’re going to compete.

“It’s hard for the athletes to continue putting forth the effort when they don’t have that competition there to motivate and drive them,” Woshner said.

All the local athletic directors said it’s hard to say when local athletes will have something to look forward to again. Practice for football starts July 30, and the rest of the fall sports start Aug. 3.

“Hopefully, we can get things back to normal for next year,” Clarke County director of athletics Casey Childs said.

“We’re all in the dark,” Woshner said. “It’s been two months since this whole situation started, and things haven’t improved all that much as far as the shutdown orders. I don’t know what things are going to look like in another two months.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll be back to playing in the fall. I’ve thought in my mind, ‘How can we still play games and do it safely?’ But there is no risk-free environment when it comes to athletics. That’s something that’s going to have to be decided by people higher [in position] than me.”

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