Benefield: Prep track and field coaches fear season will be lost
Maria Carrillo High track and field coach Greg Fogg ran his team through a workout Thursday, doing some last-minute prep for the North Coast Track Extravaganza on Saturday at Montgomery High. He only had a smattering of athletes left on the track when he got word that Saturday’s meet was canceled and, with it, perhaps the rest of the prep track and field season.
The cancellations and postponements in the face of the spreading coronavirus pandemic are no longer addressing events happening this weekend, or this month, but now this season. The spring prep sports season is very much in doubt.
“We are on hold indefinitely,” Fogg said. “I’m really trying to prepare them for everything to be canceled.”
Practices and workouts have been nixed until all 10 CIF commissioners meet on Tuesday to decide how, or if, the spring sport season for tens of thousands of California high school athletes can go on. Schools and districts have authority over regular-season contests, but section and state officials oversee the postseason. And as the section and state goes, so, likely, will area officials go. Translation: The two-day CIF meeting Tuesday and Wednesday will very likely decide the fate of spring sports.
Coaches are asked to prepare their athletes for a lot of things — workouts, tough games, painful losses. But to prepare for an abrupt end to the season, and perhaps a career, is a different assignment entirely.
And no one is advocating any “the show must go on” bravado, but this is a painful purgatory nonetheless.
“Yesterday was one of the hardest days of my coaching career,” Montgomery track and field co-coach Melody Karpinski said. “It’s just so unfair for these kids.”
Because for area athletes it hasn’t just been about the coronavirus. It’s been about the Tubbs fire, the Camp fire, the Kincade fire, the PG&E power shutoffs …
“It’s been three and a half years of a roller coaster of events,” said Montgomery High’s athletic director, Dean Haskins.
I guess the silver lining is that coaches have had practice breaking bad news, going to Plan B and building contingency plans. Karpinski and co-coach Bryan Bradley know the drill.
“We wanted to tell them in person,” Karpinski said.
So they gathered their athletes together after practice and told them first that their home meet Saturday was canceled and second that the season is on ice. They will hold no workouts or practices until after the CIF commissioners meet Tuesday.
“We want to look in their eyes and say, ‘We are here for you,’ ” Karpinski said.
The fact that spring break is next week and athletes won’t be in school might soften the blow for some, or perhaps increase the sense of isolation for others.
Fogg was having the same pseudo team meeting on Friday. When he told athletes that the season might be canceled, there wasn’t much else to say. There was some hope of perhaps merely a shortened season or some postponements, but after every major professional sports league has put a stop to events, it seemed better to prepare for the worst.
“They just turned and walked away,” Fogg said. “They were really bummed. I think they see the writing on the wall.”