MECHANICSBURG — As Gov. Tom Wolf announced late Thursday morning the closure of schools for the remainder of the academic year, the PIAA officially canceled all winter and sports championships — giving spring athletes and those still competing in winter championships the answer to the question they’ve been waiting to hear for nearly a month.

“In accordance with Gov. Wolf’s announcement earlier today that Pennsylvania schools will be closed to in-person learning for the remainder of the year, the PIAA has canceled all remaining winter and spring sports and championships,” the PIAA said in a news release.

The PIAA has been following Wolf’s guidance since it suspended all competitions and practices on March 12 and reinforced its stance on continuing to promote the safety of athletes statewide.

“Today’s decision by the PIAA Board of Directors was difficult for everyone. Their thoughts remain on the thousands of student-athletes, coaches, officials and family members affected by this decision,” executive director Dr. Robert A. Lombardi said. “However, the board’s position reflects a steadfast priority of keeping our student-athletes, officials and member schools’ staff and their communities safe, while following the guidelines provided by the governor, the Department of Health and Department of Education.”

The decision was made nearly six hours after the PIAA released a previous statement that explained Wolf’s position on the matter — which he said Wednesday, prior to the association’s official announcement on Thursday.

In his daily update on Wednesday, Wolf said, “As for what happens in the winter sports season, unfortunately every sport — professional and nonprofessional sports, amateur sports — have closed down, and I think Pennsylvania needs to follow suit on that. We need to stay safe. Again, our first priority is to stay safe.”

No official cancellation of winter championships was made by the PIAA until Wolf closed schools for the remainder of the year on Thursday.

Coach reaction

The decision to have schools closed for the remainder of the year affects all high school students, especially seniors and underclassmen were hoping to spend their final months of school with those seniors.

A few of those underclassmen were on the Shamokin girls swim team, four of whom were on the state-qualifying relay team that had their state championship meet officially canceled Thursday.

After seeing the news, head coach Jessica Wolfgang relayed the message to her state-qualifying swimmers, who were Madison Bridy, Abby Doss, Gabby Doss and Gabby Greager.

“It’s upsetting, but I told them I was proud of them and what they accomplished,” Wolfgang said. “It’s something they worked 10-plus years for together and to see them not be able to finish their careers is tough.”

Back on March 12, they were told that the Class 2A final was postponed as they were in line to check in for their practice session. And while the news did not come as the utmost surprise, it still had an impact.

“We anticipated it and so did the girls, but it didn’t really hit until the news finally came out,” Wolfgang said. “They were devastated.”

The PIAA’s high school state basketball tournaments for the boys and girls divisions also came to a halt with the announcement. There were 96 basketball teams that were still alive across the six classifications on the boys and girls side of the tournaments, all of which had their hopes of claiming state cut short.

Luckly, the wrestling season wrapped up in early March and the Class 3A Swmming Championships concluded March 12 in front of limited spectators.

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