MSHSL formally cancels high school spring sports season

Bemidji High School sprinter Jacob Kelly, center, competes in the 60-meter dash during the Lions’ Invitational at Bemidji State’s Gillett Wellness Center in March 2019. (Pioneer file photo)

BROOKLYN CENTER -- It’s official.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic and the statewide shutdown of schools, the Minnesota State High School League announced Thursday afternoon the cancellation of all league sports and activities for the 2020 spring season.

In an unceremonious but unsurprising move, any last hope of competition this spring formally had its fate sealed.

“This difficult decision was one we had hoped we would not need to make,” League Executive Director Erich Martens said in a press release. “… Our work will continue in providing leadership and guidance for our member schools and will soon turn to the summer and planning for a return to participation this fall. At this time, everything we can do to slow the spread and impacts of COVID-19 will help ensure the health of all, and will most certainly increase the chances that programming for students can return.”

Minnesota joins at least 38 other states in canceling sports through the end of the year. The list includes shutdowns in neighboring Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota, while North Dakota has also suspended sports until further notice.


“I can understand how heartbreaking the cancellation of the spring sports and activities season is for our students,” board member Troy Stein said in the release. “Many of our students and families spend the entire year preparing for their season. Sports and activities are about so much more than the competitions and performances. They provide students with a sense of accomplishment, purpose and belonging. They also provide the community an opportunity to gather and rally around their school. Without that, I think it is fair to say we all feel a sense of loss.”

The league’s decision came less than two hours after Gov. Tim Walz issued an executive order moving the remainder of the current academic year to distance learning. Students and teachers have been operating from home since March 30.

“As a former teacher, this is a heartbreaking decision,” Walz said in a press release. “I am sorry for all of our students who will miss out on graduations, tournaments, and end of year celebrations. While I recognize distance learning is a challenge for many families, it is critical to social distancing in Minnesota and supports the health of Minnesota’s families.”

MSHSL sports hit the pause button indefinitely on March 13, as the league canceled remaining girls basketball and adapted floor hockey state tournament games, as well as boys basketball section and state tournaments.

Previously, the league circled April 6 as the earliest starting date for competition. That date was later pushed back to at least May 4.

“As a parent of a high school senior, I understand the tremendous impact of this pandemic,” said board president Bonnie Spohn Schmaltz in the release. “… Knowing these costs, I’m proud of the sacrifices competitors and coaches throughout the state are making to keep others safe.”

At Bemidji High School, the shutdown affects the baseball, boys and girls golf, softball, boys tennis, and boys and girls track and field teams.


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Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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