By Dave Morrison

In a move widely expected as the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown grew longer, the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission formerly cancelled the girls and boys state tournaments as well as all spring sports.

The announcement was made Tuesday, shortly after Gov. Jim Justice announced schools would remain shut down for the remainder of the school year.

Bernie Dolan, Executive Director, made the announcement.

“To coincide with Governor Justice’s order to continue distant learning and keep the school buildings closed, the WVSSAC agrees and supports this decision of the governor and (West Virginia Board of Education) Superintendent (Clayton) Burch. For the safety of our students, schools and communities this was the right decision.

“The WVSSAC has cancelled the boys and girls state basketball tournaments as well as the spring sports of tennis, track, softball and baseball.”

The move ends the careers of many senior athletes around the state.

In girls basketball, both Woodrow Wilson and PikeView posted wins on the first day of the state tournament, Wednesday, May 11. The tournament was postponed after Thursday’s first session, with three more quarterfinals to go Thursday night.

“It has been tough on them,” PikeView coach Karen Miller said. “I really feel for my seniors, and other seniors. If you look at this senior class, some of them were born in 2001 and that was when 9-11 happened.”

Miller announced that she was retiring at the end of the season, so her victory against Fairmont will be her final game.

Woodrow Wilson beat Morgantown in the opening round behind a complete game from guard Liz Cadle.

“We were having fun winning,” Cadle said. “With an attitude that was indescribable. That and the whole entire season will be something I will never forget. It didn’t end the way we wanted it but in our hearts we knew what we were about to do.”

The boys tournament was shut down after the Class AAA and Class A region co finals. Greater Beckley had qualified for the state tournament. The games were shut down on the day of the Class AA region co-finals, Thursday, May 12.

Locally, Independence was scheduled to play at Bluefield and Shady Spring was set to play Westside at Clear Fork.

Shady Spring had not qualified for the state tournament since 1994.

Bluefield was trying for an eighth straight state tournament birth.

“I really thought we had a chance to make some noise upstate this year,” Bluefield senior Kaulin Parris said. “This virus has really messed up a lot of things. I just wish we could have started (the shutdown) a few weeks later so we could’ve finished basketball season.”

The senior athletes who didn’t play basketball lost their entire seasons.

“You always hear ‘play every game like it’s your last’ but I truly believe that this virus has taught us that’s a reality,” Oak Hill baseball player Lane Jordan said. “You never know when something can be taken from you. I’m fortunate because I get to continue playing in college (at WVU Tech), but losing the chance to play a senior year and have a legitimate shot at a state tournament hurts. I will definitely never take the game, or any aspect of life, for granted again.”

Westside’s Emily Prichard was also expecting a big softball season before heading to Tech this fall.

“When we left school on March 12 and we were told we couldn’t practice that day, I never imagined my senior season was over,” Prichard said “I never imagined I would never take first base again (she was the Renegades first baseman), that I would never get to walk up to the plate again to bat, that I wouldn’t have a Senior Night. I never imagined I would never get to do mine and my dad’s (an assistant coach for the Renegades) special handshake again when coming on and off the field. I guess the worst part is not knowing if our hard work paid off, if we would have made to to (the) state (tournament). I’m going to choose to believe that we would’ve had an incredible season.”

Dolan and the WVSSAC held off on making a decision about as long as they could

“This is an extremely difficult time for our students, coaches, schools and communities,” he said. “West Virginians are a resilient group who will overcome this virus and all problems that come with it.

“The WVSSAC wishes that everyone stays safe during these difficult times. Even though we are practicing physical separation, it is more important than ever to stay connected with our family, teammates and friends.”

Dolan said a decision on the three-week summer practice window for member schools will be made “as more information comes to light.”