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Remaining high school winter championships officially canceled

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High school basketball, bowling and hockey state champions will not be crowned this year. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced Monday its decision to cancel the remainder of the scholastic winter state championship games, as the result of the continuing COVID-19 health crisis.

State championships had been put on hold since mid March. When announcing the decision to cancel, officials cited numerous reasons including CDC recommendations concerning mass gatherings, state of emergency declarations at the state and federal level, prolonged school closures and feedback from the leaders of the Association’s eleven sections.

“This is one of the most difficult decisions the Officers of the NYSPHSAA have ever had to make,” said Paul Harrica, NYSPHSAA’s president, in a written statement. “It has been determined it is not feasible for the Winter State Championships to be hosted in a safe and beneficial manner for the participating student-athletes and their teams in the near future. The health and safety of the students we serve will always be our top priority.”

The hockey championships were scheduled to be played March 14 and 15 at LECOM HarborCenter in Buffalo. At first, NYSPHSAA officials planned to play the games with no spectators but later postponed the games.

NYSPHSAA leaders say they are developing a plan to honor and formally recognize the students and teams who qualified for state championship events.

In prepared written remarks, NYSPSHAA executive director Dr. Robert Zayas stated: “Our association’s focus is to benefit students through participation in interscholastic athletics and unfortunately this rapidly developing situation has prevented our association from providing a quality championship experience. We certainly sympathize for the students who are being impacted by this crisis but at this time they deserve honesty from the leadership of our association.”

Spring sports remain in limbo. For now, schools remain closed until April 20. Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo suggested that, according to the advice he received from health experts, the state would likely reach its peak number of positive cases in about “45 days.” By that estimate, the anticipated peak would be around the end of April. Then there’s the question of how long New York might remain at peak before new cases go into a steady decline.

A decision on the fate of the NYSPHSAA Spring State Championships will be made on or prior to April 27, representatives said.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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