WHS athletics shut down for spring

BOONE — The remaining spring high school athletic seasons and state basketball championships have been canceled for the 2020 spring season.

The North Carolina High School Athletic Association made the announcement April 24 after N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper announced that all schools have been closed to in-person learning for the rest of the academic year.

The NCHSAA released a statement to the media via email.

“In keeping with Governor Roy Cooper’s announcement today that the public schools of North Carolina will be closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, the North Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA) has canceled all remaining winter championships and spring sports,” the statement read.

The sports included for Watauga High School include baseball, softball, girls’ soccer, boys’ and girls’ track and field, boys’ and girls’ lacrosse, girls’ golf and boys’ tennis. Athletic teams, including those preparing for fall seasons, will not be allowed to gather for any organized practices or for skill development until athletics are reinstated.

“As of right now, we’re still operating under that,” Watauga High Athletic Director Dustin Kerley said. “We’ll wait to hear when we can get back to having some workouts with skill development or things like that. Who knows when that might be, but I’m optimistic that it will come soon enough. I think all these decisions are made with the safety of all those involved in the forefront and you can’t argue with it.”

Kerley said he was particularly disappointed for the student-athletes, who have not played any games since March 12.

“With the cancellation of spring sports, I hurt the most for the athletes, mostly for the seniors, who didn’t get a chance to play their senior season,” Kerley said.

Kerley said the Watauga athletic department was prepared for the decision, but was also hopeful it would not come. He said he misses the interaction with the student-athletes on a day-to-day basis. Kerley also said the school’s coaches are still in communication with the student-athletes electronically since coaches also teach at the school. Kerley said the only time he’s seen his players that wasn’t electronically was when they have come by the school to pick up academic items or to pick up meals.

“That’s what I miss the most, seeing the kids every day,” said Kerley, who doubles as an assistant football coach. “The practices, the relationships you build with the kids every day, and what makes your team motivated, and the relationships are why you coach to begin with.”

Watauga’s booster club has been working on a plan that will recognize the senior student-athletes on social media and by lighting their fields on separate days from 8 p.m. until 8:15 p.m. Kerley said the softball seniors would be recognized on April 27.

“We’re not asking anybody to come out,” Kerley said. “We’re not asking anybody to gather. We don’t want anybody doing anything. We’re at a stay-at-home order for a reason. We’re just going to cut those lights on to try to recognize those seniors.”

“Today’s decision is difficult for the NCHSAA Board of Directors and staff. We empathize with the thousands of student-athletes, especially graduating seniors, coaching staffs, officials and family members affected by this decision,” said NCHSAA Commissioner Que Tucker in a statement. “However, this decision reflects a commitment to keeping our student-athletes, officials and member schools’ staffs and their communities safe, while following the guidelines provided by the governor and his team, along with the Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education.”

Kerley said members of the booster club went through a lot of effort to make sure they could contact the seniors so they could be recognized on social media.

“That couldn’t have happened without some key members of our booster club,” Kerley said. “They really worked hard to get information from a lot of student-athletes, so I am very grateful to our booster club for helping make that happen.”

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