DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Friday, January 8, 2021

High Covid numbers lead to winter cancellations

 Administrators, coaches and athletes in winter sports across the state of Arizona knew this would be a possibility, and they pressed on toward the start of a season that was to begin in early December but was pushed back to the week of Jan. 18.

On Friday (Jan. 8), the bad news came to the Xavier community when basketball and soccer were cancelled in a 5-4 vote by the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Executive Board after Covid-19 virus numbers and resulting hospitalizations showed too big of an increase, with more projected. The move was recommended by the AIA’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee.

Xavier’s 11-game soccer schedule was to begin Jan. 19 with a home match against Phoenix South Mountain at Petznick Field. One night later, on Jan. 20, the 15-game basketball season was due to begin with a home game against Surprise Valley Vista in the Activity Center.

Judging from feedback on the AIA’s Web site, there is a lot of frustration out there. The same thing occurred in the 2019-20 school year, when spring sports were canceled after barely getting under way.

Arizona recently has been one of the top areas in the world for Covid increases. Both ICU (Intensive Care Units) beds and inpatient beds have risen above 90 percent capacity, which was the primary factor in the latest decision.

“It is a difficult situation,’’ said Xavier Athletic Director Sr. Lynn Winsor.

Athletic officials in some areas of the Valley might be considering an alternative plan of action. Winsor said no decisions would be made here before consulting with the Diocese of Phoenix and meeting with basketball head coach Jennifer Gillom and soccer head coach Barb Chura.

Wrestling, in which Xavier does not participate, also has had its season canceled, and spirit line competition has been postponed, at least temporarily.

In a press release from the AIA, Executive Director David Hines said, “While we understand the (Executive) Board’s position, we are saddened by this decision, especially considering that club sports are continuing.

“To the best of our knowledge, never in our 100-plus-year history has the AIA cancelled an entire season. We want nothing more than for our students to be active in school and participating  in interscholastic sports and activities. It is my sincerest hope that all Arizonans will follow the CDC (Center for Disease Control) and Arizona Health guidelines by wearing masks, washing hands frequently, and practicing social distance to decrease cases and hospitalizations. If for no other reason, I hope we can do it for the kids.’’

In fall sports, Xavier had been at the forefront of trying to prevent the spread of Covid with sanitizing equipment, masks and social distancing.

Stay tuned to The XCP Files for further developments.

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