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Coronavirus Concerns Forces CIAC to Cancel Winter Sports

Greenwich High School

By Paul Silverfarb

With the concerns about the Coronavirus (COVID-19) growing rapidly every day, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference made an unprecedented move Tuesday morning, cancelled the remainder of the winter 2019-20 season.

“After much consideration and consultation, the CIAC has made the difficult decision to cancel all remaining CIAC winter tournament games, said CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini during a press conference Tuesday morning. “The CIAC understands and appreciates the disappointment the student-athletes, parents, coaches and administrators may feel as a result of this decision. However, we always must place the health and safety of our student-athletes first.”

In the press conference, Lungarini stated that they received notices from several school districts saying they can’t participate in the CIAC tournaments, while others state they can fully participate without issue. Some school stated to Lungarini that they could participate in the state tournaments, but only with 100 or fewer fans in attendance.

In addition to the schools, third party locations have stated they the CIAC could no longer host the championship events. The CIAC uses the Mohegan Sun Arena for its boys and girls basketball championships, Yale University for both the boys ice hockey and State Open boys swimming championships, as well as Wesleyan University for the boys swimming LL, L, M, and S championships.

“Given the great variety of information our districts are receiving from their local Departments of Health and the declining resources to hold neutral site games, we feel that it’s important the CIAC gives direction to our schools in regarding the logistics of athletics,” said Lungarini.

And with the cancellation of the rest of the winter season, several Greenwich High School athletic teams saw its season reach a gut-wrenching and heartbreaking conclusion. The girls’ basketball and boys’ swimming teams were deep in their respective tournaments, while the boys’ and girls’ ice hockey programs had their eyes on a possible state championship appearance in a few weeks.

“In an attempt to keep our student-athletes healthy and safe, the CIAC has had to make a very difficult decision,” said Greenwich High School athletic director Gus Lindine. “A very sad and disappointing way for our teams in state tournaments to end their seasons, but we are extremely proud of the accomplishments of all our teams this winter. Unfortunately, our athletes and coaches could never imagine a more unfortunate way to end their postseasons.”

And to say that it was an emotional Tuesday at GHS would be an understatement.

“I went to the school shortly after they announced the winter season was cancelled to meet with several people about things and seeing some of the girls on teams that just met with their coaches sobbing in the hallways just makes you realize how emotionally effected a decision like this has on them,” said Terry Lowe, head coach of the Greenwich High School boys’ swimming and diving team. “You put in that kind of hard work throughout the season, you want to reap the rewards of it.”

Lowe and the rest of the boys’ swimming and diving team are of the teams greatly affected by the cancellation. After dominating the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference earlier last week in record-breaking fashion, the Cardinals were on pace to potentially take home two more state titles, the CIAC class LL and state open championships.

Lowe said that with the amount of talent and depth on the roster, this had all the makings to be the most complete and dominating GHS team the state has ever seen.

“We were working so hard on shaving and tapering for possible All-American times or really super times for the year and those were so important to them,” Lowe said. “They were looking at those for their future for college applications and much more. It’s has a lot of ramifications to have this pulled out from under them.”

And Lowe isn’t the only coach that’s gutted from this decision. Chrys Hernandez is the head coach of the girls’ basketball team. After several years of either missing the postseason or exiting early, the Cards were on a roll and advanced to the CIAC class LL semifinals.

“I can’t begin to express how shocked, upset and saddened we are by the news,” said Hernandez. “Not to make light of the seriousness that is the COVID-19, because of course we all want to keep our students safe. But to completely take away the opportunity that these girls earned without providing an option for a makeup is wrong.

After beating No. 20 seed Enfield 69-55, the No. 13 seeded Cardinals traveled up to Norwich Free Academy and stunned the No. 4 seed 43-40. From there it was a quarterfinals matchup against fellow FCIAC foe Trumbull High School and GHS came away with the 41-33 victory over the No. 5 seeded Eagle.

Greenwich High School girls’ basketball head coach Chrys Hernandez talks to her team during a timeout in a recent game at the GHS gym. (Paul Silverfarb photo)

On March 13, Big Red was slated to face off in the semis against Staples and were looking to avenge a hard-fought FCIAC semifinals loss to the Wreckers, with a trip to Mohegan Sun Arena and the class LL finals hanging in the balance.

“I am by far no expert, but I definitely feel that there were alternative solutions that could have been exhausted prior to this rash decision,” Hernandez said. “My heart breaks for every team affected.”

For Chris Rurak, the boys ice hockey tournament was going to be a place where Greenwich High School was ready to show the state how much they have improved since the start of the season. Big Red (13-6-1) was the No. 8 seed in the Division I boys’ hockey tournament and was going to start play this week against West Haven High School.

The game against the Blue Devils was going to be the last home game of the year for Big Red and the last game ever at Dorothy Hamill Ice Rink for the seniors.

“While the health and safety of our players and community are always our utmost priorities, my heart is breaking for my players, and especially my seniors who have shown tremendous dedication and fortitude this season,” said Rurak. “I am incredibly proud of what they have accomplished collectively, on and off the ice.”

While it’s not a CIAC-recognized sport, the girls’ hockey team was competing in the Connecticut High School Girls Hockey Association championships. On Tuesday, the GHS girls’ hockey team was the latest team to see its season come to an unfortunate end.

Tuesday night the No. 3 seeded Lady Cardinals were scheduled to faceoff against FCIAC rival and No. 2 seeded Darien High School. Earlier in the tourney, Greenwich High opened play with a 1-0 victory over No. 6 seed Avon Co-Op.

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