Willcox athletes can kiss goodbye an annual home golf tournament, an important home tennis match, and key baseball and softball home field advantages against Thatcher, Pima and Bisbee thanks to the suspension of athletic contests by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
The AIA suspended sports events until at least March 30 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The two-week suspension was recommended by the governor’s office and state health department, but AIA spokesman Seth Polansky said, “if the timeframe holds true, it should hopefully not impact postseason tournaments.”
“We will keep all processes in place for postseason tournaments. If the spring championship season extends for any period of time, the AIA will be ready to conduct tournaments in their entirety,” he said.
The AIA did defer to individual schools regarding their desire to practice during the suspension, and high school principal Tammy Hall said local teams may proceed with practices.
“Because our programs have fewer than 50 participants, you can practice,” she stated to coaches in an email. “If you have athletes or coaches that are not feeling well — they are not allowed at the facility where you are practicing. You may also have families that will not allow their athletes to attend practice and our district supports their decision — please do not penalize athletes who are in this situation.”
It’s tough timing for the Willcox tennis varsity, whose schedule was front-loaded with the toughest opponents. The boys squad has a 2-3 record, with a 7-2 victory at Safford last Tuesday and a 6-3 upset of Pima the previous Friday. They took a tough 8-1 loss Thursday at defending region champ Thatcher.
“This year has gone up a couple of notches. The boys did a great job at Safford and wonderfully against Pima,” head coach John Chapman said. “Naturally, Thatcher is one of the state’s top teams and it was a tough day. The kids all hit well and to hit that well this early in the season, I’m just real proud of them all.”
Two early losses at No. 2 Benson did some damage, but the squad looks like they’re heading for at least a top-three section rating if the season resumes. The girls’ squad is just 1-4, but sophomore number-one singles player Jody Denny is off to a promising 3-2 start. However, they will miss winnable matches at Duncan and versus Morenci due to the suspension.
Junior number-one singles players Luke Kauffman is off to a 3-2 start and top-ten division ranking for the boys, winning his last three in a row, including a dramatic 6-4,7-5 victory over Thatcher’s Michael Greer for the Cowboys only point in the meet.
“I think we’re doing really well as a team, too,” Kauffman said. “We have great chemistry and my dad (Mike Kauffman) and I have been doing everything we can to help coach and get them playing as well as they can.”
The varsity baseball team (1-2) may benefit from missing suspended games versus Thatcher, Benson and Bisbee, while a Mar. 24 home game versus Pima could have been an easier win.
The softball varsity won’t regret missing a Benson game, but Thatcher, Pima and Bisbee were all winnable games they can’t make up.
The track squad, who have just one meet under their belts, won’t travel to San Manuel today (Wednesday) or Bisbee on Saturday, Mar. 28, and will hope to get state qualifying times at Morenci on Wednesday, Apr. 1 and Benson on Apr. 4.
All of this is academic, however, if the suspension carries on through much more of the spring season.