April 1, 2020

Local Playing Fields Are Eerily Quiet With Sports Paused Due to COVID-19

EMPTY FEELING: The stands were empty around the turf field at Princeton High in late March. The PHS boys’ lacrosse team was slated to host Peddie on April 1 on the field, but that game has been canceled as the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) declared that no interscholastic athletic competition will take place for the time being as schools statewide are closed indefinitely pursuant to an Executive Order issued by Governor Phil Murphy on March 16 as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

By Bill Alden

April Fools’ Day is traditionally a day for harmless practical jokes, pranks, and some laughs.

This April 1 figured to be a very busy, fun day on local playing fields.

The Hun School boys’ lacrosse team was slated to host Everest Academy (Canada), while the Raider baseball team had a home game against the Hill School (Pa.). Over at the Princeton Day School, the girls’ lax team was scheduled to host archival Pennington.

Things would have been hopping around the turf field at Princeton High as the boys’ lacrosse team was welcoming the Peddie School while the track teams were hosting a tri-meet against Hightstown and Notre Dame.

Meanwhile, at Princeton University, the school’s lacrosse teams would be gearing up for a big doubleheader on April 4 as the men’s squad was slated to host Stony Brook while the women’s team was hosting a critical Ivy League clash against Dartmouth.

But with the precautions necessitated by the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19), the fields will be quiet.

In mid-March, the NCAA canceled the rest of the spring season. On Monday, though, it opened a door for athletes to get another chance at a full college sports experience as its Division I Council voted to grant an extra year of eligibility to all student-athletes in spring sports whose seasons were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

In order to accommodate seniors and returning athletes who wish to take advantage of that eligibility, the NCAA will allow schools to expand their rosters beyond current scholarship limits to account for incoming recruits and seniors who were expected to leave.

Meanwhile, New Jersey high school athletics is on hold as the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) declared that no interscholastic athletic competition will take place until schools reopen as per Governor Phil Murphy’s Executive Order 104, which requires that “all public, private, and parochial … secondary schools, including charter and renaissance schools, shall be closed to students beginning on … March 18 … and shall remain closed as long as this Order remains in effect.”

The organization added that during the governor’s statewide shutdown of all schools, no practices, scrimmages, or games may be held. This includes any event organized by a parent, captain, or other student-athlete.

When schools do reopen, the NJSIAA is ready to make every effort to take advantage of whatever part of the spring sports season remains, including holding championships.

But with federal social distancing guidelines having been extended to April 30, it appears that the high school fields will be quiet for some time to come.