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Carroll County’s fall coaches trying to cope without high school sports

This week was supposed to be one of optimism and renewal for fall high school sports teams across Carroll County.

The first day of practice for the fall 2020 season should have been Wednesday, when county teams were to gather for tryouts. Five Carroll squads were coming off state championship seasons in 2019. Two football teams made it to the state quarterfinals.

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None of that will be happening this season. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association last week postponed fall and winter sports for the remainder of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That means no high school sports in Carroll until at least next year ― a tough situation to digest for county coaches and their athletes.

“I personally want to remain healthy. I want my girls and my coaching staff to remain healthy, but as a coach it’s disappointing,” Westminster field hockey coach Laurie Naill said recently via text message. “It’s disappointing for the incoming freshmen missing their first high school team experience, and it’s especially disappointing for the seniors missing all of the experiences that come with being a senior. We have to continue to stay positive, focus on the things we have control of and push on.”

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Naill’s Owls won the Class 3A state title last fall by beating Urbana 2-1 in overtime at Washington College, giving the program its 10th championship. That’s the fifth most in state public school history.

Liberty joined Westminster as Carroll’s field hockey state champions last fall. The Lions went 18-0 and topped Washington 2-1 in the 1A title game. They’ll be on a 27-game winning streak whenever play resumes.

Liberty had another fall state title when its girls cross country team finished first at the 2A state meet at Hereford High School. The Lions put five runners in the top 20 and collected 44 points to clear runner-up Middletown by 30 points.

A trio of Liberty runners, from left, Julia Lucas, Izzy Lucas and Sammie Spargo, run together in the Class 2A girls race during the MPSSAA State Cross Country Championships at Hereford High School on Saturday, November 9.
A trio of Liberty runners, from left, Julia Lucas, Izzy Lucas and Sammie Spargo, run together in the Class 2A girls race during the MPSSAA State Cross Country Championships at Hereford High School on Saturday, November 9. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

That gave Dan Jones a ninth state championship between boys and girls cross country in his 30th year as a coach. But Jones said he’s struggling to get a grip on how he feels this week.

“It’s been 37 years since I didn’t have a fall season,” said Jones, who ran cross country at Liberty and then returned to help the team while he was in college. “I still haven’t even wrapped my head around it. People ask, ’What are you doing with yourself?’ I’m like, ’You know, I don’t really know yet, because it just doesn’t feel like it started.’ I don’t know what to do with myself. It’s weird. And I don’t like it, I’ll tell you that right now.”

Century had a pair of state championships teams last fall in boys soccer and volleyball, both of which won 2A titles.

Coaches and school officials athletes have been venting on social media since Wednesday. South Carroll athletic director Tim Novotny took to Facebook and let the Cavaliers’ sports teams know their athletic department was there to support them.

“If you are feeling down, it’s OK. If you are feeling mad, it’s understandable. If you are hurting, you’re not alone,” Novotny’s post read.

Winters Mill’s football Twitter account on Wednesday posted a picture of the Falcons celebrating during a game last season and added, “Today is a tough day, but better times are ahead. There will be more of this in the future. We will be back!”

WM coach Matt Miller said he didn’t like the trend of neighboring school systems and states making similar decisions as the summer progressed, but he did his best to absorb the blow. Miller said recently he’s staying in touch with his players to keep them focused on staying sharp.

“We text and we email. I just tell them be ready,” the coach said “I talked to our administration, our athletic director, I said, ‘Look, we will play in the middle of winter if need be.’ ”

Private schools postponing fall sports indefinitely

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association and Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland, which are each comprised of 29 Baltimore-area private schools, announced Thursday they have postponed fall sports indefinitely, according to a statement on the MIAA’s website.

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The statement says the leagues decided to postpone all fall athletic competitions and championships “in response to the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and with the health, safety and well-being of our member-school campus and athletic communities being paramount.” The member schools will reconvene in mid-October to “evaluate the public health crisis and manage competitive options for the remainder of the 2020/2021 school year.”

Gerstell Academy’s boys and girls sports teams compete in the MIAA and IAAM. The Falcons are set to add volleyball to their fall varsity lineup that includes boys and girls soccer, and boys and girls cross country.

Capital sports reporter Katherine Fominykh contributed to this article.

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