March sadness: P-P, CMS cancel spring sports seasons due to coronavirus

A male basketball player hugs a coach wearing a suit in the center of the image. Behind them are other smiling basketball players and a crowd paying rapt attention to the game.
Micah Elan PZ ’20 celebrates his last game in Rains by hugging head coach Charles Katsiaficas during the Sagehens’ 87-66 win over Redlands in the SCIAC men’s basketball championships Feb. 29. (Amy Best • The Student Life)

As 5C students pack their belongings and bid tearful goodbyes to their friends in response to the novel coronavirus, athletes on campus are saying an additional farewell to their seasons — and for seniors, their careers.

Following the undergraduate Claremont Colleges’ decision Wednesday to eliminate in-person classes after spring break due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Pomona-Pitzer and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps athletic departments suspended the remainder of the spring sports season, starting Sunday.

The decision echoes cancellation announcements by the SCIAC, NCAA and professional sports leagues, all aiming to limit the spread of the virus by nixing events and large gatherings.

Please know that we understand how difficult this news is, especially for our spring sport athletes,” interim P-P Athletic Director Jen Scanlon said in an email to Sagehen athletes. “We care a great deal about each and every one of our Sagehen student-athletes. Your excellence in the classroom, in the competitive arena and on our college campuses makes us proud.”

CMS athletes received a similar email from Athletic Director Erica Jasper.

“We fully recognize and appreciate the time, energy and passion our scholar-leader-athletes contribute to their teams and respective sports. Nothing, however, is more important than the health and wellness of our student-athletes, our community and our country,” Jasper said. “Our student-athletes have handled this news with grace and perspective. They have demonstrated excellent leadership in this challenging time.”

“We told our teammates how much we love them and what would make us happiest would be to lay it all out on the court and compete with full hearts for the last time. And they did that for us.”  –Catherine Allen SC ’20

Though winter season athletes preparing for NCAA competition — CMS and P-P swimmers and divers, as well as the Sagehen men’s basketball team — were originally spared from the suspension, the NCAA itself decided Thursday to cancel its winter and spring championships.

The basketball team’s plane to Chicago was taxiing at Ontario International Airport on Thursday afternoon shortly before takeoff when word of the NCAA tournament’s cancellation reached players. The team notified a flight attendant and was let off the plane before it departed.

“I totally understand the reasoning behind the NCAA’s decision to end all sporting events, but it is still incredibly disappointing,” Adam Rees PO ’20 said via message. “All of this happened in such a blur, but I am still so proud of our team, and I loved my four years playing for the Pomona-Pitzer basketball program.”

The news rocked 5C teams, many of which were just getting into the heart of their spring seasons. Athletes understood the decision to prioritize health and avoid risking spreading the disease, but were still crushed by the announcement. 

“It’s just devastating for each and every one of us, especially the seniors,” said Athena water polo player Jessi Beyer SC ’23, whose season ended with a loss at Whittier Wednesday night. “It’s going to make all of us appreciate next season a lot more, definitely … and make us work that much harder.”

CMS softball played its final game last Sunday in Tucson, Arizona, a 3-2 loss to Central College.

“It was really sad,” CMS softball player Jordan Bassett CM ’22 said of the news. “We were in the middle of our season. And I guess the worst part is our seniors don’t get to have their senior night or anything.”

Some teams attempted to quickly throw together impromptu competitions or find other ways to celebrate their senior athletes, who are seeing their collegiate careers abruptly cut short.

The P-P track teams planned a miniature intrasquad meet to give athletes one more chance to race this year, while Sagehen men’s tennis scrambled to find an opponent for a final match.

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Tennis player Jonathan Miller PO ’20 said P-P found a willing partner in Bucknell University, and the teams were all set to play Thursday — until the downpour scrapped their plans.

“Certainly an abrupt end, unexpectedly abrupt end,” Miller said of the season’s cancellation. “Definitely not the way you want to go out.”

Still, Miller reflected fondly on his years of Division III athletics.

“Just being a part of DIII sports and having the unique ability to balance academics with sports, not having one dominate the other, was really nice,” he said. 

An empty gym fills the frame, symbolizing how there will be no sports games due to coronavirus for a while.
The SCIAC, NCAA, and many professional sports leagues all aim to limit the spread of the virus by nixing or suspending entire sports seasons. (Melina Kofokotsiou • The Student Life)

Athena tennis player Catherine Allen SC ’20, whose bid to lead her team to a second national championship in three years has come to an untimely end, said there’s a chance all four 5C tennis teams could play a mixed-gender doubles event before everyone departs campus.

“It breaks my heart to realize that the end of my collegiate career was cut so short and unexpectedly, not only because of my passion for tennis, but mostly because I am not ready to say goodbye to my teammates who have become my family,” Allen said via message. “I’m remembering and treasuring every moment I had from my first to my last season.”

The Athenas ended their season in typical fashion, scoring a commanding 9-0 victory over WashU.

“In our meeting prior to the match, we told our teammates how much we love them and what would make us happiest would be to lay it all out on the court and compete with full hearts for the last time,” Allen said. “And they did that for us.”

Sagehen softball commemorated the abrupt end with a makeshift end-of-year dinner. 

“The softball team is feeling a great sense of loss after having our season essentially taken from us,” shortstop Izzy Deatherage PO ’20 said via message. “Although the seniors are still trying to process the fact that we’re suddenly and so unexpectedly never going to get to put on a jersey again, or hit a home run, or make a great play, everyone who is a part of our program is feeling a bit empty.”

“We are struggling most with suddenly losing a sport that has been an integral part of our identity for the past 10-15 years,” she added.

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