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NMAA postpones State Spirit; suspends spring sports

The board of directors of the New Mexico Activities Association on Friday decided to postpone the State Spirit Championships later this month, and also to suspend all spring sports in the state “until further notice.”

The board conducted an emergency meeting via teleconference Friday afternoon. The decision by the NMAA includes all practices, plus contests/events.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat and the Public Education Department’s announcement that schools will be closed for three weeks starting Monday,” an NMAA news release said.

“The board of directors felt it was best to postpone,” NMAA executive director Sally Marquez told the Journal. “Everyone was on the same page.”

The high school state basketball tournament was not part of this. All 10 championship games — three Friday, the final seven on Saturday — were not affected.

The last game of the tournament, the Class 5A boys final between Las Cruces and Capital, is 8 p.m. Saturday at Dreamstyle Arena – the Pit.

A special NMAA board meeting to further talk about this issue has been set for April 1. That, too, will be held via teleconference, according to the NMAA.

Friday’s decision puts the state spirit event (March 27-28) in obvious jeopardy, and that is no small thing, because after state basketball and the state football playoffs, it is the third-best moneymaker among state competitions.

“I’m very hopeful we will have a state spirit championship before the end of the school year,” Marquez said.

The La Cueva cheerleading account on Twitter, @LaCuevaCheer1, posted this message after the NMAA board put things on hold for the entire state:

“We are hopeful that (state) will be rescheduled for the end of April. Cheer and dance are year-round sports and these kids have been cheering on all the other sports all season long and working hard on their own routines since last August for this one big competition.”

All five primary spring sports — baseball, softball, track and field, golf and tennis — had just recently begun their 2020 seasons.

“I think we were all expecting this was going to happen,” West Mesa High softball coach Desi Garcia said. “We kind of want to think this isn’t a big deal, but precautions are necessary for these kids.”

Sandia and La Cueva were due to play a baseball game on Thursday, but it was canceled about an hour before first pitch.

“We’re bummed out, and I feel bad for the seniors,” said Sandia junior pitcher Jacob Kmatz, who has committed to play collegiately at Oregon State. “At the end of the day, it’s tough, but our health comes first.”

Since coaches cannot supervise a practice, it will be incumbent upon the athletes to stay sharp in case the season resumes at some point.

“They’re letting basketball finish, and that tells me the NMAA wants spring championships to happen,” La Cueva baseball coach Gerard Pineda said. “So I’m encouraged by what’s happened the last couple of days. … After three weeks, (hopefully) we’ll be able to continue our season and let the seniors have the end to their high school careers.”

Cleveland track and field coach Kenny Henry said athletes have to be diligent during their down time, just in case.

“It’s like we’re left in limbo,” he said. “Also, there is a fear that everything will be canceled altogether, which we’ve heard rumors about. It’s a surreal thing, to be honest with you.”

Garcia said it would be risky to continue as things are now.

“Liability is the biggest concern,” he said. “If someone gets sick and we didn’t do the things we needed to do to protect them. … “

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