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Baltimore County cancels winter high school sports season amid surge in COVID-19 cases

Amid the continued surge of COVID-19 infections statewide, the Baltimore County Public School system announced late Monday afternoon that the 2020-21 winter athletic season has been canceled. .

“Due to COVID-19 infections, we are cancelling the 2020-2021 winter athletic season,” BCPS announced in a tweet. “We will evaluate and examine potential alternatives for winter athletes. We will continue to monitor health metrics to determine if the fall athletic season can start Feb. 13.”

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Michael Sye, Baltimore County Supervisor of Athletics, did not immediately respond to a request for comment and the school system did not provide more information.

The winter season includes basketball, wrestling, indoor track and field, swimming and cheerleading.

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“It’s a big disappointment. Last year, the winter sports season got cut short, but just to know this is not going to happen is pretty disheartening,” Catonsville athletic director Rich Hambor said. “I think it was not totally unexpected. Some other counties have done that, so following suit for Baltimore County wasn’t a huge surprise.”

Baltimore joins Howard as the area counties that have canceled their respective winter seasons so far. Howard’s decision came last Wednesday, one day after neighboring Carroll County kicked off a condensed winter season set to run through mid-February. Anne Arundel, Harford and Baltimore City remain in a holding pattern with no official announcements on cancellations or when their respective winter seasons might begin.

For the fourth straight day Monday, Maryland reported more than 3,000 new coronavirus cases, and for the second straight day, the state reported record high hospitalizations from the virus. As of Friday, there were 309,686 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the state. Baltimore County had reported 42,307 cases with 972 deaths.

The news brought disappointment to many associated with Baltimore County athletics, but a degree of acceptance with the recent COVID-19 surge.

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Parkville’s boys basketball program went 24-3 (9-2 in Baltimore County) during the 2019-20 season before March’s COVID-19 shutdown. The team was just a step away from securing a spot in the Class 4A state championship game and hasn’t stepped foot in a gym since.

Head coach Josh Czerski looked forward to returning to the court after losing four seniors. Several young players are attempting to come into their own, but building chemistry is key. Czerski will not be able to guide his youthful team to cohesion with the lost season.

“One of our seniors already signed and received a scholarship,” Czerski said. “So, that’s great — he’s going to Chestnut Hill. But we have a lot of young guys. We have three freshmen that we were really excited about that are going to be really good players. By the time that they get on the court, they’ll be sophomores.”

Dulaney boys basketball coach Matt Lochte was hoping the county could pull off a condensed season similar to Carroll, but understands the logistics with Baltimore County being much larger.

With eight seniors returning led by point guard Ryan Conway, Lochte still holds out hope that his Lions can find their way on the court at some point in the school year.

For now, the Dulaney players are working out on their own and the team is conducting Zoom meetings and book studies among other things to stay connected.

“I’m hoping the higher-ups get together and talk about this and figure out a way for us to get maybe a six- to eight-week season in in the spring. But if the COVID numbers keep the way that they are going, that is probably not likely,” he said.

The pandemic has affected four straight athletic seasons in Baltimore County. The majority of 2019-20 winter season was in the books before the state’s basketball tournaments were cancelled last March.

“To get that official word today, on the one hand, it’s a little bit of direction for the kids to kind of move forward, but it’s closing the door that nobody wanted to see closed. But it kind of had to be,” Hambor said.

Next up for the county is preparing for the abbreviated fall season, which the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s calendar has tentatively set to begin Feb. 13.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed and hoping everything goes smoothly and we will be ready on Feb. 13,” Hambor said.

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