According to an announcement by Ohio High School Athletic Association Executive Director Jerry Snodgrass in a press conference on Thursday, both the entire spring sports season and the remainder of the winter sports tournaments are still officially postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sports affected for Highland County include boys tennis (Hillsboro) and the sports of track and field, baseball and softball for all five schools in Highland County (Hillsboro, McClain, Lynchburg-Clay, Fairfield, Whiteoak) for the 2020 spring season.

The tentative date for spring sports to return is April 6 for a week of practice, followed by games beginning on April 11.

“I was asked last Thursday if canceling was on the table. Canceling is on the table. Everything is on the table. I would be remiss if I did not say that,” Snodgrass said at the press conference. “Right now, the governor has closed schools for three weeks. We put a plan in place last Thursday, and disseminated it to schools on Friday, of a tentative schedule for our spring sports.

“We put a plan together that would include a period of time where we would like practices to begin before first contests and state tournaments on same schedule. However, what will change that overnight is any decision by the governor to extend the closure of schools. It doesn’t mean at this point with spring sports that we are canceling, but is canceling on the table? It absolutely has to be on the table.

“We will consult with our schools, our member schools, first before we make any public decision where we cancel or extend postponements. We owe our member schools that responsibility.”

Locally, Whiteoak baseball head coach Chris Veidt spoke with The Highland County Press about the current postponement of spring sports as his view is unique as he’s not only a head coach, but his daughter is a senior in high school.

Veidt spoke about how for his team the entire situation is being “in a stage of disbelief.”

“It is so hard right now in my position as a head coach because the kids, they are wired differently,” he said. “They have a feeling of invincibility and want to practice and play games because they aren’t feeling bad. I appreciate that commitment, but it is hard to say ‘no, we can’t do that.’ This situation is scary, and it is hard for everybody.

“Honestly, going into today I had a lot going through my mind because we didn’t know what was going to be announced at the press conference. There is still hope for a season, and we’ve talked to our guys about what they need to do to keep preparing for the season. We want them to keep it simple and throw, do sprint work, that type of thing.”

Those dates could change, though, as daily updates from Governor Mike DeWine will be a factor in all OHSAA decisions for the spring sports season.

“To me, if we can stay on the current schedule where we can practice on April 6, that isn’t much time, and with all sports, the main thing is for the kids to stay healthy,” Veidt said. “Everyone is in the same boat.”

Snodgrass did state that the “window is closing” on whether the winter sports season will resume for state and regional tournaments in basketball and wrestling. McClain has one wrestler remaining in the Division II state tournament and that is junior Kade Rawlins, who is a two-time state qualifier and has a record of 15-4 this season as he battled back from a torn meniscus this season.

“I’ve had contact with Kade every day through texting, and I’ll tell you this, he’s anxious,” McClain head coach Shane Paul said of his state-qualifying wrestler. “He has been working out at his house, and that is all you can do at this point with the tournament still being postponed indefinitely.

“We’ll just go day to day until we get the final announcement. I commend the state and OHSAA for all they are doing to keep everybody safe as this is uncharted territory. I would like to see Kade get his chance to win state, and as of right now that is still a possibility.

“I try to be empathetic and put myself in Kade’s situation, and I would like to see him get some closure to the season," Paul continued. "The window is still open, and I want to see him be able to go after his goals.”

Teams had already began some practices for the spring sports season as it was originally slated to start on March 27 for boys tennis, while track and field, baseball and softball were scheduled to start on Saturday, March 28 before it was pushed back to April 11 when the spring season was originally postponed due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

“The governor stated in his address (Wednesday) that it is here, referring to the COVID-19 virus,” Snodgrass said. “It is here, and we must be at war with it. We have a duty, and I have a duty and responsibility to help with that war and fight it. We are going to do that.

“All decisions are not going to be made upon emotions. We have to make the best judgments that we can make based upon fighting that war as the governor had indicated.”

Again for local sports, Hillsboro boys track and field head coach Bud Marsh gave his thoughts on the postponement situation and how it has affected the track and field program.

“I’ve been in contact with my team by text only, and with the no-contact period in place, and the facilities being closed it is tough for our team keep at the pace they were during conditioning,” Marsh said. “I told the kids hopefully everything works out, and hopefully I’ll see them on April 6 and get going again.

“There is some promise that we’ll get back, and I told the kids in the meantime they need to get out, exercise, do some sprints and not lay around. We have good kids, and they know what they need to do to not lose what they have already gained.”

Marsh spoke about the seniors and how he feels for them.

“We’ve had good practices until the no-contact ruling, and I feel really bad for the seniors,” Marsh said. “The safety of the kids is the most important, and the right move has been made to wait and see where we are at on April 6. It is about safety first, but I hope we wait and see before they make a decision.”

During the press conference, Snodgrass stressed the importance of the no-contact period.

“Starting a week ago, we became very aggressive in our fight. We instituted immediately a three-week no contact period for coaches,” he said. “While that no-contact period was put in place, it was put in place so we could control that social distancing and we could help with not getting kids together.

“We do, however, promote constant contact with student athletes via electronic communications. That’s important.”

As for Veidt and other coaches in the area, they not only have the coaches’ perspective but the perspective as a parent as well, with seniors not knowing if they will get to play this season.

“I’m so torn with this because from a coaching perspective, it is a big empty place for me,” Veidt, who has been a head coach for the past 20-plus years, said. “I hurt for my kid too because I’ve seen her put in all the work, and she and her teammates we excited for a very hopeful season where they were going to compete for championships.

“This is tough for all kids of all the spring sports and for those still left in the winter sports tournament too. Emotionally, this is a feeling I’ve never felt before.”

Snodgrass was also asked about the possibility of finishing one winter tournament (e.g. the state wrestling tournament) even if other events, such as the basketball tournaments, have to be canceled. Snodgrass said that “if cancellation’s required, they most likely all would be canceled. I highly doubt that we would play one without the other.”

As many locally and statewide wait for more information of how the spring sports season will go, Veidt gave advice of “patience and staying positive.”

“We just need to be patient and stay positive because that is the best way to stay,” he said. “I commend the state, the OHSAA and Jerry Snodgrass for how they have handled the situation.

“We are doing the right thing in keeping people away from each other, but also being patient before a final decision is made. Patience and staying positive are two major keys.”