Almont’s Thomas Manko stares down a shot.

TRI-CITY AREA — The Michigan High School Athletic Association canceled the remainder of the 2019 Winter and Spring sports seasons last Thursday. They opted to make the decision in compliance with last ‘state of disaster” directive by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s closing school buildings and moving education online for the remainder of the school year to help the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

This will be the first school year to not see MHSAA Finals played in multiple sports since 1942-43, when World World II led to the elimination of finals in most sports.

March 12 saw the MHSAA suspend its girls’ and boys’ basketball, girls’ gymnastics, boys’ ice hockey and boys’ swimming and diving tournaments amid COVID-19 concerns. All activity in all sports was halted March 13. Spring sports to that point had started practice, but had yet to begin competition.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Representative Council approved during its Winter Meeting on March 27 a series of concepts for completing the Winter Tournaments and an abbreviated Spring season, contingent on the lifting of a statewide quarantine. The closure of the school buildings into June made those possibilities void.

The MHSAA’s Executive Committee, comprised of officers of the larger Council, affirmed the decision last Friday to cancel the remainder of this year’s school activities.

“We are heartbroken to not be able to provide those opportunities for Michigan’s student-athletes and especially seniors,” MHSAA Director Mark Uyl said. “We continue to hear from dozens asking us to hold out for hope,” he noted.

“Safety always must come first and Governor Whitmer is making courageous decisions to safeguard the people of our state.”

Uyl did not downplay the significance of the move, unprecedented in most of our lifetimes.

“We understand as much as anyone how much school sports mean to athletes and their communities,” Uyl said. “We had ideas and hopes for finishing Winter and Spring and helping bring some sort of normalcy after this long break. But this is the correct decision and we will play our part in bringing schools and communities together again when the time is right,” she noted.

“For now, we can’t state strongly enough that all students, staff and others follow the guidelines established to slow the spread of this virus. We all must do our part.”

Because the five Winter sports were not able to conclude with finals, no champions will be awarded in those sports for 2019-20. However, championships won at earlier rounds of the those tournaments (district and regional) will continue to stand.

The MHSAA will in coming weeks provide guidelines and other information pertinent to this unusual offseason as attention is turned to preparing for Fall 2020.

Kevin Kissane has been covering high school sports for the Tri-City Times since 1985. When not standing on a field or court with his camera and notepad, he enjoys golf, travel and family. Kevin is a 1980 graduate of Capac High School, and is also a grad of St. Clair Community College and earned a degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.