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Mt. Spokane baseball coach Alex Schuerman. (Dan Pelle / The Spokesman-Review)

Spring shutdown: Coaches, administrators express sadness on cancellation of spring sports

Even though the outcome was a foregone conclusion, the final word still stung many people deeply across the state, including players, families, coaches, administrators and yes, even the media.

The official announcement Monday by the Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association canceling the remainder of the spring sports seasons due to Gov. Inslee’s order to close school for the rest of the year came as no surprise to anyone involved.

That didn’t make it hurt any less.

“In working with the athletic directors and principals, it was anticipated,” Greater Spokane League and District 8 director Herb Rotchford said Tuesday.

“You know, there was a hope that we would be able to get back in session and resume spring sports. But as time went on I think it became pretty clear, really, what the anticipated decision was going to be.”

Rotchford said various scenarios and contingencies were in play to try to salvage part of the spring season, right up until the governor’s order to close school for the rest of the semester across the state.

Just last week, WIAA director Mick Hoffman released a video describing a plan to resume activities if schools opened back up by May 4, leaving time for “culminating events.”

Now, the fields will remain empty for the foreseeable future.

“We had the concepts in place, but it was a matter of getting the green light,” Rotchford said. “We knew the probability of getting the green light was slim, but we wanted to give our coaches hope. We wanted to give our kids hope.”

Rotchford had a message for all student-athletes, especially the seniors.

“I would tell them how deeply disappointed we are, and how deeply we feel for what they’ve missed,” he said.

“Their prom, their graduation. All of the culminating events in terms of school activities that are such an important part of the tradition of the experience in high school, and to not be able to have that closure and not be able to have those culminating events, really, truly leaves a void, and we understand it.”

Mt. Spokane boys soccer coach Morgan Hartanov knows firsthand the potential impact of the shelter-in-place and social distancing guidelines necessitating the shutdown. The 32-year-old tested positive for COVID-19.

Hartanov was experiencing flu-like symptoms with a headache and at the urging of his wife, who is 20 weeks pregnant, went to the mobile testing site at the fairgrounds last week. She tested negative, he was positive.

Hartanov, who said he “feels great” and is now symptom-free, said he had taken the social distancing order seriously and still can’t figure out how or where he picked up the virus.

“I hadn’t left my house since (March) 13th.”

He’s had to deal with the anxiety of the positive test while helping his athletes – some of whom he’s coached since they were 10 – get through the process.

“The whole team loves being around each other,” Hartanov said. “I think that’s the biggest thing, the hardest thing to lose.”

Lewis and Clark girls golf coach Michelle Grafos has been sheltering and helping her parents with groceries when needed. She was awaiting official word like everyone else.

“I was sad for our seniors,” she said. “I think we absolutely have to err on the side of caution. The kids just need some normalcy and this is really hard on them, I think, more than anything.

“I’m really missing the opportunity to be out there with them this spring.”

Mt. Spokane baseball coach Alex Schuerman had 12 seniors on his squad this season. He took Monday’s news hard.

“It was a pretty emotional day for me, honestly,” he said.

As a coach and father of a senior softball player, he’d been wishing for better news.

“I was holding out hope, in both instances, for something to get done – even a two- or three-game stretch to give those seniors a chance to walk off the field one more time and kind of let their parents have that senior moment.”

Schuerman and his players grasped any last hope to play this season, especially Monday as there was some confusion between the governor’s order and the final announcement.

“I think that’s the piece that’s the hardest,” he said. “No matter what the glimmer of hope was, there was that slim chance. …We would grasp onto that one-in-a-million, if it meant keeping your spirits up and having that light at the end of the tunnel.”

But the light has gone out on the spring season. Only disappointment and sadness remain.

“Overwhelmingly, it just kind of feels like you’re ripped off,” Schuerman said. “It’s no one’s fault, obviously, but it just feels like you get shortchanged on all those moments. Last games, you (know) how emotional that is. So yeah, I’m choking up now because we don’t get to have that.

“I don’t get to, you know, say goodbye properly.”