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'It feels final now': VPA cancels 2020 spring sports season

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BENNINGTON — The Vermont Principals Association held out as long as it could, but it made the decision that it had to make on Thursday.

The VPA voted Thursday morning to cancel the 2020 spring sports season due to the coronavirus outbreak.

"Given the Governor's executive order "Stay Home, Stay Safe" still extending at least through May 15, and with no known expectation to return to in-person school for the 2019-20 school year, the difficult decision to cancel the 2020 spring sports season has been made. The VPA and the Activities Standards Committee have delayed as long as possible in hopes that some version of a season could be salvaged, but now it is too close to the end of the school year for that to occur," wrote the VPA in a press release.

Arlington senior Kolby Wilkins was succinct.

"It just sucks," said Wilkins, who was set to play baseball for his fourth and final season with the Eagles. "It was definitely expected, especially after school closed, but it's still disheartening."

Wilkins and the Eagles made the Division IV semifinal last year and he said he was looking forward to getting back to the postseason.

"We played our entire lives, it's sad," said Wilkins, who has enlisted in the Air Force. "Me and [fellow senior] Matt [Ritchie] were the ones who had played forever."     

Mount Anthony senior softball player Rachael Jones said that the cancellation was heartbreaking.

"We get no closure to the next chapter of our lives," said Jones back at the end of March when Vermont Governor Phil Scott closed schools to in-person instruction for the rest of the school year. "All the memories we made and we don't get a last season. We were so excited to play with the new freshman and excited to play together."

Even after Scott canceled in-person instruction on March 26, the VPA held off making a decision twice in April, waiting to see what would happen. On April 14, they set a drop-dead date of April 30 to make its decision.

Vermont becomes the latest state to cancel spring sports as most around the country have done so. Regionally, they join New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine in the cancellation. New York canceled sectional and state championships, but have decided to let local school districts make the final decision on any games contingent on schools being re-opened.

"There's a lot of unwritten stories and it's unfair, it's just so sad," said Jones, who will attend Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island. "Everyone would come out to our games and it warmed my heart. We're not going to be able to say thank you."

BBA athletic director Dave Miceli's son John is a senior three-sport athlete who would have played lacrosse this spring.

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"It's easier that it didn't happen at the same time [they closed schools]," said John Miceli, who will attend Ithaca College in the fall. "It was easier to hold out hope that we'd have something. But with the time difference, I didn't see how it could happen, so I've made my piece with it. It feels final now, the realization is going to set in over the next few days."

John said that he was looking forward to playing lacrosse with his brother, Nicky, for the first time at the high school level. The two siblings are two years apart.

"I didn't think [the hockey season] with my brother would be my last season with him," John Miceli said.

Parents of senior athletes were also hit pretty hard by the news of the cancellation, despite its perceived inevitability.

"We anticipated this would happen, but you hold out that little bit of hope that you can see your [child] play [their] last season," said Arlington boys soccer coach Todd Wilkins and Kolby's father. "He's gone from being a boy to a man and to watch him in his final sport, it's heartbreaking to have it taken away."

Wilkins said that he and wife Kerry understood why the decision was made, but it didn't make it any easier.

"We're not upset, but just heartbroken for him," Todd Wilkins said.

Dave Miceli was emotional in a phone interview on Thursday night talking about his son.

"Watching the boys play is a huge part of our lives," said Miceli, whose wife, Barb, is a language teacher and field hockey coach at Burr and Burton. "To see the kids do something they are passionate about, watching them play soccer and ice hockey and I was looking forward to lacrosse. Now there's reality that it isn't going to be."

Miceli said despite his son losing his senior season, he has no regrets.

"There's a sense of gladness, we made sure to appreciate what we had," Miceli said. "We're glad we had a deep appreciation of the moments and real joy in the games we were able to see."

"We feel terribly for our Vermont student athletes who have been preparing for their 2020 spring sports season, and especially saddened for our 2020 seniors. Your sacrifice is unparalleled in Vermont sports history and is one that is quite literally saving lives. We are hopeful and confident that our shared sacrifices in social distancing this spring will ensure a safe return to in-person gatherings, celebrations, and extracurriculars for the fall season of 2020-21," the VPA wrote.

"It was inevitable, and it just sank in today for the athletes and the coaches, especially the seniors," said Mount Anthony athletic director Ashley Hoyt. "The coaches are really bummed, we had a lot of new staff coming in, with high hopes, we felt the spring would be a success. But the health and well-being of the community is so much bigger than sports."


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