When news spread around the state on Monday that the NJSIAA canceled the spring sports season, the NJ track and field community was understandably devasated as the glimmer of hope for a partial season had vanished.
This unprecedented decision came on the heels of NJ Gov. Phil Murphy's announcement earlier in the day when he ordered NJ schools closed for the remainder of the current academic school year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While the historic cancellation of the spring sports season was expected, the realization that the season is officially over still packed a big and painful punch.
Reactions came pouring in from all around the state as coaches and athletes weighed in on the lost season.
Allentown senior Liam Murphy, who has captured four Meet of Champions titles in his career and was hoping to win his first outdoor MOC title this spring, said the news is heartbreaking.
"It's definitely really disappointing and heartbreaking officially hearing that school and the spring season is canceled,'' said the Villanova-bound Murphy, who has won three indoor MOC titles and captured the MOC XC race in November. "For all the athletes out there that put so much time and effort into their sport see the final season end like this isn't easy, especially for the seniors. It's really hard to wrap my head around everything that's happening and what's being lost. For everyone out there that was expecting a big season, PRs, or even just having fun with your team and enjoying the sport for what it is, this news definitely hits hard.''
Old Bridge coach Jack Campbell - "As a coach, I feel horrible for all of our track and field athletes at Old Bridge,'' said Campbell. "I especially feel bad for our seniors and seniors all over our state. All of our seniors have invested a tremendous amount of time and effort into becoming the best track and field athletes that they could be, and now our seniors will not be a able to experience those local, county, sectional and state meets one last time with their teammates.
As a track coach and fan for over 30 years, I feel cheated. New Jersey athletes and fans miss out on what is the best high school sporting event in our state hands down, the Meet of Champions!! We all miss out on those head to head battles and fantastic performances in all events that come from the tremendous athletes in our state.''
CBA coach Karl Torchia - "I am heartbroken for the seniors,'' said Torchia. "They have worked four years to get to were they are. This was their year and season to enjoy all the accumulation of their hard work. It was their pay off and now it will never come. I also feel horrible for these juniors that need their outdoor times and distances to get recruited. The distance juniors still have XC next year, but the sprinters, jumpers, and throwers won't have another chance to show how good they are. It isn't anyone's fault, but it is still a completely terrible situation for so many kids. It is also such a disappointment to miss the season for the whole team. This was one of the best teams CBA has ever put together, and the kids won't be able to show their talent and possibly enjoy a championship or two.''
Rahway coach Leon Bunion - "At this point it was pretty much expected,'' said Bunion. "And as much as we wanted to get back to our normal routine, I believe everyone knew it was unrealistic. The decision is a good one. As for my seniors, they are disappointed but they knew we weren't going back to school and they knew their high school track career had unfortunately come to an end with the indoor MOC. It's disappointing, but they are mature enough to understand that although they will never get these moments back, there will be many opportunities to create new memories in life. Four of my senior girls are competing on the collegiate level and four of my senior boys will compete in football in college, so they have pretty much turned their focus to their next journey.''
Willingboro coach Martin Booker - "It hurts for the spring sport teams and particularly the seniors,'' said Booker. "This Covid-19 has hit universally everywhere and we all must do what is best for life at present to future. The solutions from top to bottom appear to be befuddled with the hopes that everything will resume as normal. The only thing we have control over is to practice social distance and await upon the vaccine to cure and we slowly return to a new life experience. I will say I have contact with our student-athletes in Google-Classroom where motivation readings, video highlights, functionable instructional workouts are delivered to assist encouragement, compassion, and desire to keep at it. Lord knows we all wish this didn't occur, but it will return. Painfully saying this, but I do feel for the seniors.''
West Windsor-Plainsboro North coach Brian Gould - "The season being cancelled stinks, obviously,'' said Gould. "So many of our kids had great spring seasons ahead of them, as I'm sure many others around the state did,'' said Gould. "Not only that, but teams are families, and those families were torn apart suddenly. That's a real loss for these girls and guys. I feel worst for the seniors. Not a single one of them knew that their last race was their last. There's definitely a lesson there - Never take anything for granted - but what a lousy way to learn that lesson! I'm so proud of our kids. They all competed their hearts out at indoor MOCs. Our ladies 4x800 was seeded 23rd and took 3rd! We had two seniors on that relay and it was the last race they will have ever run for us. What a story! I wish things could have gone differently. Their teammates, other coaches, and myself will miss them so much. It's hard to see things end like this - so unexpectedly.''
Metuchen coach Marty Holleran - "Obviously this is a horrible situation for everyone, athletes and everyone in our country,'' said Holleran. "But with that being said, to the seniors-do not let this define you or your senior year. Track and field athletes are resilient, it is the nature of our sport. Track and Field athletes constantly deal with disappointment and failure, it drives us as athletes, so take this time to do something that will define this period in a positive light. Do something for your family, and your community. Let it be as passionate as your approach to track and field because ironically for many seniors, you will be calling on those lessons learned in our sport for the rest of your lives. Make and treat everyone and everything and all you do --the best it can be. To the seniors, it has been a pleasure watching you. Make everyone in your life feel that way too.''
Ramapo coach Bill Manzo - "I have tried my best to be positive and to promote that attitude to my team and their families knowing that at some point we would likely face the news we received today,'' said Manzo. "Our track plan is always for the year, not just one season, so this is a big hit for all of our athletes to know they won't compete again. However, the seniors are the ones I feel the worst for. I know that seniors have an idea in their minds of how they would like to end their high school experience--academics, sports, clubs and activities, socially, prom and graduation--so the inability to do that is a very harsh and sobering reality. As hard as this is for all parties involved, I think it is the right decision. Speaking for my own team, I would be decimated if coming back to something we all love meant losing someone we love. I appreciate the NJSIAA keeping hope alive and promising us some sort of season if schools reopened and we were ready to get back to it if that's what happened. Now we will all have to get back to it in a different way: working hard to stay healthy and safe and prepare for one heck of a comeback.''
Haddonfield coach Nick Baker - "One of the biggest disappointments about losing this track season is the stories that are never going to be told,'' said Baker. "Every year there are kids that make unbelievable improvements, come out of nowhere to do great things or overcome big obstacles to be successful and those stories are not going to be told this year, and that is extremely disappointing.''
Scotch Plains-Fanwood coach Jeff Koegel - "Some of these kids were running some killer workouts, just hoping they had a chance to get back out there again and finish their high school careers with some PR''s,'' said Koegel. "Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. This isn't how we wanted this story to end. Sports are a large part of the identity of many of these students and has a great deal of meaning for them. I miss seeing them and working with them. I wish there was something I could do for them. I figured we would be out a few weeks and be back. Maybe cancel the dual meets and a few of the Saturday's in April. Once the Penn Relays got canned, you knew it was something big. My girls had their best season ever this winter. We had a lot of momentum.'' We always talk about taking care of the things that are under our control, like our attitude and our effort, and to hope for the best for the things that are outside of our control, like the weather. If the weather is bad though, you only have to wait a few days or less for better weather. The current health crisis is far worse. I think as time went on, the inevitability of the season being canceled became more and more apparent. I am very appreciative for the kids who have been putting in so much work in trying to keep themselves fit. I miss working with them and I miss being at practice and meets. I will continue to support my student-athletes in every way I can moving forward.''
Union Catholic coach Mike McCabe - "It is disappointing to see the class of 2020 lose their senior season,'' said McCabe. "Senior year is the time for student/athletes to celebrate their hard work and commitment over the years. The decision made is the correct one as safety should be the main concern.''