NORTH STONINGTON — Wheeler High athletic director Ellen Turner spent some time Tuesday morning working out the travel logistics for Wednesday's Division V state tournament game in Bridgeport for the boys basketball team.
The Lions, who are experiencing their best season in many years, had defeated O'Brien Tech in overtime Monday night for their first state tournament win since 2007. Next up, a trip to Bullard-Havens Tech for the second round.
The girls basketball team and the cheerleaders were going to Wednesday's game to support the Lions, and Turner was trying to arrange transportation for them all.
Then she received an email from the CIAC informing her the organization had decided to cancel all remaining tournament games in every sport due to the threat of the coronavirus.
"The decision was made in light of discussions with numerous agencies and considering the circumstances of our member schools, our championship venues, and weighing the health and safety of our student-athletes, parents, and fans given the uncertainty that surrounds the spread of this virus," the CIAC posted on its website.
Turner had to inform the team its season was over.
"At first, they were very disappointed, especially our seniors. If you know you are playing your last game, you have emotions that go with that," Turner said. "But you could see them realize they had played their last basketball game without knowing that. You could see it in their faces.
"We didn't do well early in last night's game, but we did well at the end. You could see them riding that momentum into the next game."
Coach Neal Cobleigh said it was a disappointing way to end the season.
"It's kind of like a bad prank, a cruel joke," Cobleigh said. "To do all this hard work and get the rug pulled out from under you, it's tough. The kids are in shock, angry. We were coming off one of our best wins in school history and suddenly they pull the plug."
Some teams have indicated on social media that they plan to continue practicing in hopes the CIAC will relent on its decision.
"It crossed my mind, but I don't see them going back. The Ivy League canceled its tournament. It seems like a tidal wave," Cobleigh said. "And God forbid anything happens. It just put everybody in a tough position."
Turner said the coronavirus issue and its effect on the postseason have been topics of discussion across the state for the past week and a half. Some schools had said they would not host games as neutral sites, and others indicated they might not continue in their tournaments and would instead forfeit games.
Consideration was also given to playing games with no or few fans.
Last season, the Wheeler team played every game on the road due to a school construction project.
Now this happens.
"I'm a little mixed right now. Maybe they could have just let the parents go. And if schools didn't want to host then the higher seeds could have hosted," Turner said. "At least we could have played it out."
Turner said Scott Pion, a senior on the team, made a good point.
"Scott pointed out that we are state champs with 16 [remaining] teams. And one of the parents emailed me that we went undefeated in the tournament," Turner said.
In Stonington, the swimmers that compete for a co-op team have seen their season end with the cancellation of the class and State Open meets.
Two gymnasts, Hanna Laskey and Olivia Laskey, who qualified for the New England meet, will not compete since that event in Fairfield has been canceled, too
Stonington also has runners scheduled to compete in the New Balance indoor nationals this weekend at The Armory in New York. Rhys Hammond, who has one of the nation's fastest times in the 1,000, is scheduled to run the 800.
Stonington athletic director Byran Morrone said a decision on their participation has not been made.
"The problem with that one is The Armory is right next to Columbia and Fordham, which have closed their schools and are having classes online," Morrone said.
Stonington was scheduled to participate in a Unified basketball round-robin tournament at NFA on Wednesday and that has been postponed.
The school's spring team night for Wednesday has been canceled. An ECC leadership conference scheduled for March 31 has been postponed.
Turner and Morrone said they have heard some other school districts are developing contingency plans for shutting their doors for two weeks.
Most spring practices start March 21 and games begin April 4. It is uncertain what closing schools could mean for spring sports.
"I don't even want to think about that," Turner said.