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The New Mexico Activities Association doesn’t want to call off the spring state championships, but didn’t take cancellation off the table, either.
The NMAA, the governing body of most high school interscholastic sports in the state, held a webcast Monday discussing its decision to suspend all sporting activities in New Mexico, a decision that came down Sunday, as well as its tentative plans to reschedule many statewide events.
Gary Tripp, NMAA’s executive director, said in the webcast that the cancellation of the spring sports championship events was a possibility if schools in the southern part of the state remain closed longer than this week.
This weekend, school districts in Socorro, Lordsburg, Deming and Carlsbad announced they would close at least some of their schools this week because of a possible outbreak of the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu.
The decision caught many by surprise, including officials at Los Alamos High School.
LAHS athletic director Vicki Nelms said Tuesday it’s been difficult trying to explain to people how the situation escalated to this point and where LAHS and other schools go from here.
“The hardest part is that when it was done, nobody knew it was going to happen,” Nelms said. “Are there going to be state championships? There’s no definitive word about what was going to happen.”
As of Tuesday morning, only three cases of swine flu had been confirmed in New Mexico, according to the Centers for Disease Control website. As of Monday afternoon, the total number of cases stood at one.
The one confirmed infection when the school districts decided to close occurred in Valencia County. Valencia County borders Socorro County but is relatively far away from the other three counties – Hidalgo, Luna and Eddy – that had school districts shut down this week.
The two new confirmed cases, however, are in Socorro County.
Because of the school closings, the NMAA decided to take the action of suspending all games, contests and practices throughout the state. NMAA assistant director Robert Zayas stressed that the suspension was to preserve competitive balance between the teams and not due to possible spread of swine flu.
Many in Los Alamos, however, remember that in 2000 virtually no consideration was given to delaying spring competition while the Cerro Grande Fire was raging and most Hilltopper athletes were displaced, a point more than one person has brought up to Nelms.
The high schools affected by the closings run the gamut from Class A to AAAAA, which prompted the decision to suspend activities this week.
The closings could affect competition indefinitely, possibly forcing the cancellation of the spring state tournaments, although Tripp didn’t say what the drop-dead date for such a drastic step might be.
“We do need to start competition as soon as possible,” Tripp said. “We need to hit the ground running when the ban is lifted.”
During Monday’s webcast, however, NMMA officials announced their tentative plans for the remainder of the spring season, assuming the closings don’t last longer than the seven days that are currently planned or that closings don’t become more numerous in the next week.
The stoppage of all competition is an unprecedented step for the NMAA, which has existed since 1951.
Teams from Los Alamos met Monday to discuss the situation, many of them during the school’s lunch periods.
Hilltopper girls tennis coach Bruce Cottrell said he spoke to his team members about the ban.
“I told them it’s up to them if they want to get together (on their own),” he said. “Those that are highly motivated will probably go up and hit.”
The biggest impact for Los Alamos may well be on the sport of golf.
Most teams were scheduled to play in their district championship meet Monday, but those tournaments were shelved.
Due to logistical concerns, the NMAA said the state tournaments for golf wouldn’t be moved and, if play can be resumed, they would go on as scheduled. The district tournaments, however, will likely be canceled altogether and the individual districts could determine who should be the champion.
That will mean the two teams from Los Alamos could be frozen out of the state tournament. While the Hilltopper girls have a legitimate claim to a de facto district title, the boys’ situation is far more iffy, particularly after a loss at Los Alamos Golf Course to the Bernalillo Spartans April 17.
Neither of the Hilltopper golf teams earned their three necessary qualifying legs – the girls have picked up two legs this season, the only 2AAAA team on either the boys or girls side that has earned any. Teams and individuals that have earned three legs automatically advance to state regardless of what happens at their district tournaments.
The other sport which would be heavily impacted is tennis. Los Alamos, which is heavily involved in both the boys and girls AAAA state tournaments, would likely have to forego its season finale against St. Michael’s, which was originally scheduled for today.
More importantly, teams around the state would have to play both the individual state championship and the team championship one right after the other. The individual championship would now take place all in one day, May 14, while the team championship, which was to be held over three days, will be squeezed into two days, May 15-16.
Cottrell said that he wasn’t overly worried about the format change, which was scheduled to go into effect in 2010 anyway. In fact, he said, the emergency changes might work in his team’s favor since players from Farmington, the top-seeded team in AAAA, could have to squeeze more matches in than would his team.
Cottrell said some of his players could have schedule conflicts that weekend, however, but it would be up to them to decide what to do and he would rearrange his lineup accordingly.
Baseball will face at least one big change, other than having to play Monday instead of its Friday start date that was originally scheduled. Instead of the best-of-three format which is used in the first round — which was scheduled to be done away with for the 2010 season — teams will play just one single elimination game.
Track and field will have relatively moderate changes if the ban is lifted by Monday. Los Alamos is scheduled to host the 2AAAA track and field meet, which Nelms said she was trying to reschedule for Monday afternoon.
While Tripp said teams would be allowed to run Monday’s events during school hours — something that is generally frowned-upon by the NMAA — Nelms said that wouldn’t work at LAHS since many student-athletes will be taking Advanced Placement tests during the school day.
Here is the tentative scheduled for the Class AAAA postseason as presented by the New Mexico Activities Association Monday:
Track and field
District championship meets
State championship meet
Playoff first round
State individual championship tournament
State team championship tournament
State championship at New Mexico Tech
Seeding and selection meeting
State championship tournament at Las Cruces