High school sports in Southland shut down for now

Eric Sondheimer
Ziaire Williams (1) and Sierra Canyon teammates won the Southern California Open Division championship on Tuesday over Etiwanda but will not get a chance to win a third consecutive state title. The championships were canceled because of the coronavirus outbreak.  (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

High school sports competitions have been shut down throughout Southern California indefinitely, with a growing number of public school districts and private schools announcing closures because of coronavirus concerns.

The announcement Friday that the nation’s second-largest school system, the Los Angeles Unified School District, will close campuses for two weeks beginning Monday adds to the uncertainty of when, or if, the high school sports season will be able to resume. LAUSD previously announced sports competitions would be halted until further notice.

The California Interscholastic Federation, which governs high school sports in the state, has a regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday in Sacramento during which the priority for the 10 section commissioners will be to come up with recommendations on how to proceed.

Thom Simmons, spokesman for the Southern Section, said in an email, “Nothing has been determined at this point as there are many factors to consider that have yet to be discussed. The commissioners from the 10 CIF sections and the CIF state executive director will meet on Tuesday in Sacramento to discuss next steps. At this time, we are primarily focused on the health and safety of our member schools and their student-athletes. We will continue to monitor the situation, including gathering information on school closures/athletic participation suspensions and what effects those will have on spring sports.”

City Section commissioner Vicky Lagos said she has begun working on contingency plans to modify schedules if the LAUSD and charter schools decide to allow students to resume athletic activities next month. Most championships are supposed to be completed by the end of May, but extending the seasons is possible.

Matt Mowry, the baseball coach for three-time defending City champion Lake Balboa Birmingham, talked to his players Friday and doesn't know when he will be with them again. School will be closed effective Monday and athletic competition has been canceled indefinitely.

"When I sent them on their way, I told them to keep working out, keep up your conditioning and plan on playing again," Mowry said.

Mowry said he warned players not to join an outside team because if the season resumes, they would be declared ineligible.

Pitcher Albert Garcia of Birmingham said the team might get together to work out at a local park. "I'm trying to stay positive hoping everything gets under control and hoping I can finish out my senior year," he said.

Jonathan Sheriff, the athletic director at Chatsworth, said he told his coaches in a meeting to inform players to "take some time off."

"I told them to explain to the kids it's time to take off and make sure everyone stays healthy," he said. "The coaches should stress the importance of health over everything else."

Catcher Josh Klein of Woodland Hills El Camino Real said he has his glove, bat, baseballs and weights at home to stay in baseball shape. He wants a chance to finish out his season.

"It just sucks that we’ve been working hard and we don’t get to show it on the field and the opportunity has been taken away from us," he said.

Top events scheduled for next month are being canceled because many schools won’t be allowing athletics to resume until after spring break at the earliest. The Boras Classic, the National Classic and the San Diego Lions tournament in baseball and the Michelle Carew Classic in softball have all been canceled, along with the National High School Baseball Invitational in North Carolina and the Mt. SAC Relays.

The major state competition still on the schedule is the track and field championships on May 29-30 in Clovis. The Arcadia Invitational on April 11 at Arcadia High is one of the top track and field meets and remains on the schedule.