It’s getting scary out there.
Every day, every week, every month that high school campuses are shut down is another day, or week, or month that athletes aren’t training under the watchful eye of a coach.
That’s part of the scary part. No proper prep time, no season.
I could ask a coach ⎯ football’s Kurt Bruich or San Gorgonio’s Rich McClure, or any coach, San G baseball’s Bill Eatinger, Aquinas boys’ basketball’s David Johnson, Citrus Valley’s cross country’s Grace Padilla Leong or softball’s April Finazzo ⎯what’s going to happen.
None of them, brilliant as they are in their field of work, can answer what will happen with the COVID-19 shutdowns.
More on the “scare” in a few paragraphs.
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Speaking of McClure, longtime San G Athletic Director Matt Maeda firmly commented about filling that head football coaching vacancy when highly successful Ron Gueringer left after the 2016 season. He filled it with McClure.
McClure had been Gueringer’s defensive coordinator before landing a spot over at a highly improving San Jacinto High School program.
Aric Galliano, in a very surprising move, replaced longtime head coach Bill Powell, who’d been very successful on the Tigers’ sideline. McClure took on an assistant coaching spot with the Tigers, which has grown into an area powerhouse.
All of a sudden, McClure reappeared at San G. He went from one high school powerhouse to another. Keep in mind, San G kept that football flow going nicely in a transition of coaches ⎯ not often seen at the high school level.
Maeda said: “I was really happy we could get Rich back. I loved what he did here when he was an assistant coach before.”
Throw this in, too: McClure redesigned San G’s weightlifting facility.
“We got money from the district,” said Maeda. “It’s amazing what he did in there.”
Another benefit in the McClure-back-to-San G-story: He could coach track & field, long a successful staple on the Spartans’ facility.
“Everything,” said Maeda, “worked out for us.”
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Leong, incidentally, happily filled her COVID-19 waiting days by doing what she does best ⎯ run. She’s a Masters (age division) national champion, who has notched a couple wins at A Run Through Redlands.
In 2018, she went up against two-time Redlands champion Joanna Reyes, a candidate for the Olympic marathon squad this year.
“I ran with her [in the 10K] with a couple of guys. Then they disappeared from sight. I ran by myself for awhile.”
As for the COVID-19 shutdown, “Coach Grace” had it all planned out.
“I hit the trails,” she said, “for eight miles one day, six the next, 10 the next, 14. The weather was cool.”
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More on the scare. No high school sports this year.
I’m talking to plenty of knowledgeable people. They’re scared, too.
The scary part is this: I’m starting to believe ⎯ I don’t want to start a written pandemic here ⎯ that the COVID-19 presence will shut us all down for the entire 2020-21 school year.
A few things stand out to me for you to drag that out of me:
One is this: There’s no vaccine available just yet. COVID-19 cases are spiking all around us. Yes, there are people willing to risk going out in public. In the case of area schools, no one will take that risk.
Two is this: We’re in a state that believes in the shutdown from the governor’s office, the top of California’s flow chart.
Three is simple: I’m both seeing and hearing the fear from area athletic directors on the immediate future.
Maeda, for instance, is predictably positive something will happen.
Yucaipa High’s longtime athletic director Matt Carpenter might’ve said it best.
He told me, “It hit me just the other day, ‘Oh, my gosh, this season might not happen.’”
Carpenter’s got a senior student-athlete on that campus. Mitchell Carpenter plays water polo in the fall and basketball in the winter.
“And both of his teams are supposed to have good seasons,” said Matt Carpenter. “That was in the pit of my stomach.”
As for his own son, Mitchell, losing out on his own sports, Matt Carpenter seemed ready to speak for most people.
“As parents, we’re all craving that time (senior season) for them. It would be sad to see their senior year … not to have that for them.”
Carpenter is aware of everything, ranging from football and volleyball to the aquatics sports, plus track and cross country, plus everything else, is endangered.
“There are records to be broken,” he said, “and top 10 lists to be joined. I know that’s not why you play sports, but that’s part of it.”
More Carpenter guesswork: “If we can get a vaccine in December, we can start playing in January.”
Carpenter quoted another source, which stated, “the virus is in control.
“Not a school board. Not a superintendent, but the virus is in control. I agree with that.”
Another AD, Cajon’s Rich Imbriani, said, “We haven’t even started talking about spectators (at high school games). At this point, I’d say no.”
Four is this: I really thought it was too early for Cal State San Bernardino’s 13-school CCCAA affiliation to have called off its fall sports calendar. I thought it was way too premature. Now, it looks like they had good foresight.
Folks, I think it’s over. I don’t want it to be.
There’s still a chance. Still hope. Good luck to all of us everywhere.