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Flagstaff high schools in sports limbo, awaiting AIA's Monday decision on coronavirus

Flagstaff high schools in sports limbo, awaiting AIA's Monday decision on coronavirus

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Prep Sports

The Auburn fan section got creative by placing paper plate faces on the seats during the Class 1C boys high school basketball tournament championship game against Ogallala on Saturday at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Neb. Crowds were limited to staff and immediate family due to concerns over the coronavirus

Rescheduling is often a large part of an athletic director's job during the spring sports season in Flagstaff, normally coming as a direct result of inclement weather.

This year, the novel coronavirus has added itself to the mix, keeping ADs scrambling and on their toes as they await a Monday announcement from the Arizona Interscholastic Association on the issue of the pandemic. 

“As of Monday I am going to follow the protocol, or rule, that the AIA puts down," said Mike Elder, Northland Prep Academy's athletic director, on Friday night in light of the spread of COVID-19 and its long-ranging effects on the sports world.

He added about the Monday executive board meeting: "That's going to be very telling."

Most of Northland Prep's week was full of cancellations stemming from weather-related issues, as the Valley was also experiencing large amounts of rainfall for the most part. But Saturday's 21st annual Rattler Booster Invitational the Spartans were supposed to compete in was called off due to the coronavirus, with some teams choosing to drop out of the meet.

The Flagstaff Eagles track and field squad was also scheduled to compete in the Rattler Booster, which was set to take place at North Canyon High School in north Phoenix.

Meanwhile, other large track meets around the state are in flux, many postponing or canceling. Next week's Nike Chandler Rotary invite, a huge high school meet in Arizona that was originally set to feature more than 140 different schools, has been postponed due to the coronavirus.

“Every day it changes," Elder said of the coronavirus scenario in sports from the pro to the prep levels. "And given the weather we’ve had, so as an athletic director, you are dealing with all this weather we’ve been dealing with, and then we are getting emails all of a sudden from people saying, 'Hey, we are canceling games until further notice.'"

As of now, Elder plans on letting his athletes play games -- if they remained scheduled. That has simply not been the case as of late.

Coconino softball and baseball had their spring break tournaments canceled and postponed respectively due to weather. And Monday brings a whole new ballgame.

The AIA released a statement earlier in the week deferring scheduling decisions to schools and districts. The AIA said they will not penalize schools that choose to cancel or reschedule without working consent from both ADs. The statement said the executive board and executive director David Hines will be reviewing information from the governor's office, the Maricopa Health Department and National Federation during its meeting Monday.

Jeannine Brandel is the president of the AIA Executive Board in addition to her role as the athletic director at Flagstaff High School, and she says she's not exactly sure what's in store for the Monday meeting considering the fluidity of the situation.

Monday is the start of spring break for some schools across Arizona, while others completed their breaks this past week. Brandel said that's an important part of the equation when making a decision over the coronavirus.

“I think the real telling time will be after spring break," she said, "when people are done traveling and doing things. So it might all depend on this following week.”

For now, she's in the same ilk as Elder when it comes to her teams playing sports.

The Eagles softball team was slated to host Prescott on Tuesday, but the Prescott Unified School District announced Saturday it was cancelling classes for a time span.

PUSD's statement said: "After carefully monitoring the latest developments in the coronavirus (COVID-19) situation including a national declaration of emergency and considering the extensive input of parents, teachers and staff, we have made the decision to close all Prescott Unified School campuses to students and the public, effective Monday, March 16. This closure will remain in effect through at least Friday, March 27."

"What we’ve told parents is that we respect you and your decisions, so if you don’t feel comfortable sending your child to a baseball tournament or track meet that we completely understand that," Brandel said Friday evening.

Coconino track and field saw the meet it was supposed to go to on Saturday, the Shadow Ridge Showcase, nixed. Now it's waiting to see if the Sedona meet on Tuesday will take place.

For the most part, Flagstaff-based prep sports are entering spring break, giving the athletic directors a chance to catch their breath and learn more about what's coming from the AIA moving forward.

“We are dictated by them," said Eric Freas, Coconino's athletic director and trainer.

Although right now it seems the coronavirus is what's dictating the sports world.

“We are living in very strange times,” Elder said.

Mike Hartman can be reached at 556-2255 or at Follow him on Twitter @AZDS_Hartman.


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