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Spring Sports, Music And Other Activities Canceled

The Montana High School Association issued a final decision to cancel spring sports, music programs and other school activities Wednesday, May 22, just hours after Gov. Steve Bullock announced a three-tiered reopening of Montana.

Under Bullock’s plan, public school districts could open for classes May 7, three days after the deadline MHSA had set earlier of Monday, May 4, for students to return to classes, which was a condition for activities to return with shortened seasons.

This cancellation, a health and safety decision related to the COVID-19 pandemic, is the first time in 77 years, since 1943, that Montana has canceled a sports season.

Mark Beckman, executive director of the Helena-headquartered MHSA, made the announcement in a press release.

“The MHSA executive board proceeded with cautious optimism holding on to hope to realistically resume spring activities. It would be difficult to conduct meaningful spring activities from this late date, with many schools deciding not to return to in-person instruction, and with the social distancing recommendations still in place along with many other factors,” Beckman said.

“We empathize with all the students, schools and communities that this decision impacts, and especially with the many seniors that have shown maturity and resolve as their culminating year of high school has been impacted beyond activities and athletics due to this COVID-19 pandemic. The Class of 2020 will not be forgotten,” he said.

Beckman said the MHSA looks forward to resuming high school activities during the 2020-2021 school year.

As recent as Monday, April 20, Montana was one of 20 states that had not canceled spring sports.

“It really is kind of a bummer, unfortunately I thought it was something that was definitely going to happen,” Wolf Point High School activities director Cody Larson said.

“I felt [our high school track team] was going to have a great season with a lot of records broken and a really good shot at bringing home some state hardware,” he said.

“Our high school tennis team had really strong numbers. I think we were at 11 before the cancellation. They had a full slate of matches with some new and exciting opportunities and matchups for them,” Larson said.

He responded to a question about potential athletic scholarships for senior track and field athletes.

“I really don’t think it’s going to affect scholarship opportunities much. We definitely have a great group of seniors that have already made their mark on the scholarship field,” Larson said.

The cancellation impacted track and field, tennis and golf athletes at most schools and softball at Glasgow.

“The coaches and student athletes were pretty upset about the decision to cancel the season. We know this decision was in the best interest of everyone involved, though,” WPHS head track and field coach R.C. Page said.

“We had a good group of about 45 participants this year with lots of returning placers from the state meet last year. We did have some school records that we were shooting for this season also,” he said.

“Scholarships were not affected. The recruiters are still reaching out to the coaches and student athletes,” Page said.

“Losing a year of experience hurts the program a bit, but we’ll just have to go back to work to make up the lost season,” he said.

“We hope everyone stays healthy and recovers,” Page said.

“The scholarship portion, I don’t think it really affects most kids. Most have been recruited or college coaches have touched base with,” WPHS golf coach Rodney Paulson said.

“Golf is a little different in the recruiting process college coaches watch the summer amateur tournaments and recruit from those, but we also stay in contact with some college coaches before and after the season on potential college golfers,” he said.

“The personal accomplishment portion I think is what is mostly affected. I visit with my golfers once the season starts individually and talk about our goals for the year and also each meet give them a target score to try and beat,” Paulson said.

“This year, we had one of the biggest teams we had in quite some time with nine golfers. Hopefully, this will slow down and we will still be able to get some work in this summer and prepare a little more for next year since our season was cut off,” he said.

Wolf Point tennis head coach Nicole Boos reflected on recent tennis seasons and expressed concern for the young women who play on her team.

“It is really something that has been difficult for me. This would have been my seventh season as the head tennis coach along with [assistant coach] Nicole Paulson by my side,” she said.

“It makes me think back to my senior year and how I would have felt if I did not get to perform,” Boos said.

“My heart truly goes out to my seniors Lindsay Nefzger, Alex Sutton and Darlene Mac-Donald. I wish nothing but the best,” she said and added that she is saddened that they did not get to finish their senior year of tennis together.

“I had an amazing group of girls go out this season,” Boos said. She said that makes it hard not to wonder how we would have performed.

“Also, the relationships that are built over these seasons are something that I have been forever grateful for. I am looking forward to next year’s season and hoping that all my girls are staying safe and healthy,” she said.

“Of course, this affects the athletes having set personal goals for this season, especially the seniors,” Poplar High School tennis coach Aaron Snyder said.

“As far as scholarship opportunities go, as coaches we have resources to assist our athletes in finding those scholarships if the talent is there,” he said.

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