Not Over Yet: MHSA extends spring sports postponement


Last updated 4/10/2020 at 8:15am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

A lone tennis balls rests on the empty Bill Vaughey Memorial Tennis Courts last week in Havre. The courts are empty because Montana high school spring sports have been postponed due to the COVID-19 crisis. Thursday, the MHSA announced they are extending the postponement to April 24, rather than cancel the season altogether. However, if Montana does not return to school by May 4, there will be no spring sports season.

Teams and fans across Montana have been waiting for quite some time to hear the decision regarding the spring sports season from the Montana High School Association. Originally, the decision was to by made April 13, but the MHSA moved it up to Thursday. After what seemed like forever, the MHSA made its call.

As of Thursday, the suspension of 2020 high school spring sports will be extended to April 24. In summary, the season will be canceled if face-to-face school instruction cannot take place by May 4. The timeframe between now and then will be a crucial one because if the COVID-19 situation does not improve to a safe level, then spring sports will be a no-go.

MHSA executive director Mark Beckman released the extended statement about the spring sports season Thursday.

"There's not much time left in the spring sports season if you go any farther than being able to start on May 4," Beckman said. "You have schools that are getting out on the third, fourth week of May, plus they have a lot going on if they do get back into school to try to balance the in-person instruction with all of that. The board was looking at, 'Let's see if things change and if there are different directions from the governor or state health. If there are, then we'll look to some adjusted formats. But if we don't get back by May 4, then that would be it."

Beckman and the MHSA Executive Board contemplated other options, even cancellation, Thursday, as well. Beckman added that trying to go into the summer was not suggested due to the conflicts with other sports and activities.

If the spring sports year does permit, the programs will have to have five practices before games or meets. The MHSA will reconfigure the postseason formats if the year goes forward, as well. It has been since March 16 that the spring sports season has been on hold.

The decision has no doubt left some more hope for many, including Havre High School Athletic Director Dennis Murphy, who shared his thoughts on the statement from the MHSA regarding the spring sports season.

"I think the decision they made was the only decision they could make," Murphy said. "They're holding on for hope of getting spring sports started. We can't put our kids out there till we feel that it's safe to do so. I think the statement that Mark gave us gives us more of a definite answer of where we're going. If we don't get started by May 4, or the governor shuts down school again, we're done. The governor will make the right decision based on information from his medical personnel and whatever is happening with the virus."

HHS tennis head coach George Ferguson weighed in on Thursday's new development from the MHSA.

"I think I can speak for all our coaches and student-athletes when I say we're glad the MHSA took this course of action and decided not to completely cancel spring sports, yet," Ferguson said. "Of course, we also all understand that a lot of things in regard to COVID-19 will have to change in order for kids to safely go back to school in May. And the safety of our students and our communities is the most important thing. But it is a good feeling to know that spring sports are still at least a possibility should things improve over the next three weeks."

It has not been often that a season has been canceled like this. It is a rare occurrence in itself, but when something as big as a global pandemic comes into play, it can halt almost anything. Even so, the MHSA and schools across the state are still holding on to the possibility of having some form of a spring sports season.

The current situation is unfamiliar to many of the youth that participate in spring sports, as well. They may have seen a few games or meets canceled in a season, but a whole year suspended has not been something to take place for the student-athletes across Montana. Even so, Havre High student-athletes who participate in spring sports have been handling the situation as best they can.

"From my observations, I think our student-athletes at Havre High have handled this situation extremely well," Ferguson said. "This is unlike anything these kids have ever gone through, and I think they've been really mature about it. Are they disappointed they're not playing tennis, or softball or track or baseball right now? Of course they are. They are very disappointed. But, at the same time, I'm so proud of the way they have handled this situation. These kids are our future leaders, and to see the maturity in which they've dealt with all of this, it just makes me very proud of our young people in this community."

Now, the Montana high school sports world will have to wait and see if the COVID-19 situation gets better to have a semblance of a spring sports season. At the end of the day, practicing the good habits that many health organizations have released during this time can give the 2020 year a good shot at coming back. But, if things do not improve by May 4, spring sports will have to wait till next year.


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