NJ school fall sports face an abrupt end amid COVID-19 spike
A growing number of New Jersey high schools have been forced to end fall athletics early due to rising COVID-19 cases around the state. The sudden change comes in the midst of soccer playoffs and some families are rallying for a postponement until spring.
Cinnaminson parents Tim Weick and Katie Quinn have been gaining support from surrounding communities for the idea of delaying the final round of playoffs until the new year.
Hundreds have signed an online petition requesting that the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association move the South Jersey Group 2 High School soccer playoffs to a week in early spring 2021.
With the virus outbreak, Weick said he thinks the school decisions being made are prudent.
“Maybe now isn’t the best time to play, but certainly giving the kids some hope and a chance for a fair and meaningful playoff in the spring, I think, is a fair request,” Weick said.
“Some of these kids — especially the seniors have invested so much; they got so close to finishing,” Quinn said.
She noted that Cinnaminson on Friday had shut out Haddon Heights 6-0 in the first round of playoffs when the school announced that it was ending fall sports amid coronavirus spread.
On Monday, the NJSIAA repeated that among its guiding principles issued ahead of the fall season were to "minimize potential impact on the spring season" and to "minimize the importance of post-season, state-wide championships."
"The focus this year is on participation, as opposed to championships," according to the written guidance announced in August.
Both Weick and Quinn stressed the mental health value for teen athletes, to have something to look forward to with added meaning for seniors who are faced with their final athletic season in high school.
As seen in high school sports brackets maintained by NJ.com, a growing number of teams have been given byes due to the turmoil surrounding the state's spike in coronavirus.
Weick said for some teams that have had brief closures earlier in the season, “it’s been choppy to say the least."
Delran High School has ended its fall athletic season and participation in state playoffs,
according to a letter on Friday from Delran Superintendent of Schools Brian Brotschul, who wrote: “Although the seasons did not end in the fashion that the student-athletes and coaches planned, I am thankful for the time they did have together. I sincerely wish there was more for each athlete and coach.”
Middletown also announced on Friday that both of the township’s public high schools have switched to all remote instruction and fall athletics have been suspended for the same span, due to more than a dozen confirmed COVID-19 cases in the school community within a two-week span.
For Middletown High School North and Middletown High School South, “On campus in-person instruction as well as co-curricular and athletic activities will resume on Monday, Dec. 7,” according to schools Superintendent Mary Walker.
Brotschul said he expected the “NJSIAA to communicate their path on Nov. 20,” which would clarify the winter athletics program based on the most current public health factors.
Point Pleasant School District also canceled the remainder of its boys soccer, football and girls cross country seasons on Nov. 11, as Superintendent Vincent S. Smith said individuals from each team had tested positive for coronavirus.
On Sunday, the state reported 4,540 new lab-confirmed cases of coronavirus, 18 new confirmed deaths and 2,004 hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients.
A day earlier saw 4,395 new positive cases and 26 new confirmed deaths.
Also as of Sunday, there were 51 school outbreaks with 193 active cases linked to those outbreaks. Each county had at least one school outbreak with the exception of Essex, Union and Morris.
An outbreak is defined as “two or more laboratory confirmed COVID-19 cases among students or staff with onsets within a 14 day period, who are epidemiologically linked within the school setting, do not share a household, and were not identified as close contacts of each other in another setting,” according to the state data dashboard.