More than 300 Connecticut students turned out last Wednesday to protest the CIAC’s cancellation of winter sports tournaments. (Photo by Steven Valenti , Republican-American)

The CIAC’s announcement last week to cancel all remaining winter tournaments and events originally shocked many and left players and coaches thinking “what if?”  With the wave of cancellations and school closings that soon took place after, the decision seemed inevitable.

Still, five programs in Southington had their seasons cut short, each with championship aspirations.

Girls Gymnastics

The Southington girls gymnastics team was coming off a Class L state title as well as their first ever state open team title.  Their team was preparing for the New England championship meet.  While this meet wasn’t sanctioned by the CIAC, its cancellation came right at the same time as CIAC’s decision.

“The girls were understandably upset,” head coach, Cassidy Chamberland, said.  “We were lucky that we were able to get in states and state opens because we know some teams didn’t even get to their tournaments. We are hoping that all of the commotion doesn’t overshadow the success we earned this season. I still reassured the girls that they should we extremely proud of their accomplishments this season and still celebrate their successes.”

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Indoor Track

The girls 4x800m relay team, which consisted of Jackie Izzo, Diane Pillsbury, Lauren Verrilli, and Anny Moquete, was set to compete in the New Balance Nationals meet in New York, N.Y.  They qualified after finishing sixth in the Emerging Elite Qualifiers, and coach Connor Green said their time of 9:37.58 broke the previous school record by 11 seconds.

Just weeks later, the team broke their own record at the New England championships with a time of 9:36.72.  That was good enough for seventh place in an event in which they were ranked 12th coming in.

While the New Balance Nationals are not a CIAC event, the event was cancelled on March 12.

“Unfortunately we never had a chance to meet with the team in person,” girls coach, Dan Dachelet, said.  “We had conditioning scheduled for this past Thursday and used email to cancel.  Similar thing with the ladies going to (nationals).  It’s certainly not ideal, but with our group, they at least have outdoor to shoot for. Feel bad for those whose primary sport was cut short.”

Swimming and Diving

The boys swimming and diving team was coming off another strong season, which saw them take the CCC West regular season title as well as the divisional championship meet.

The Blue Knights (11-1, 11-0 CCC) were preparing for the Class LL meet and state open meet, which were both cancelled by the CIAC.

“The CIAC had to make a very difficult decision, but did so with the best intentions and with the safety and well-being of student-athletes in mind,” head coach, Evan Tuttle, said.  “Myself and my athletes were obviously disappointed, but I encouraged them to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. This did not take away the season that they already had. Doesn’t take away from their record, from their conference title, and most importantly it doesn’t take away from the character of the team.”

Boys Ice Hockey

Hall-Southington found out about the CIAC’s decision the morning after defeating Staples in the first round of the Division III state tournament.  The Warrior Knights (14-7) were also coming off a second place finish in the CCC South tournament and a No. 3 seed in Division III.

“It is a disappointing end to the season,” head coach, Brian Cannon said.  “In hindsight, you can’t fault the decision anymore.  I do think it was possible to end the tournament by last Saturday.  We talked to the boys that night and had them scrimmage.  That loosened them up and put on some happy faces.  The way we were playing down the stretch, I liked our chances of making it to the end.”

Boys Basketball

It was a roller-coaster season for the boys basketball team.  The Blue Knights started the season 7-2 but finished 10-10, which put them as a No, 17 seed in the Division II state tournament.  If they had taken down No. 16 Pomperaug in the first round, they would have had a shot to hand No. 1 Prince Tech their first loss of the season and move on into the quarterfinals.

“My immediate reaction was what the seniors were thinking,” head coach, John Cessario, said.    “We prepared for 11 days for this state tournament.  Then 11 days later, it is just over before it started.  To see where we are at seven days later, it is clear that this decision had to be made.  I feel for the seniors whose postseason was taken away.  We are going to have to live in this purgatory.  We were ready to go against Pomperaug.  All I know is that our guys worked hard and they worked for each other.”

On Wednesday, after this story went to press, the CIAC has scheduled a press conference to discuss the upcoming spring sports season. Significant postponements is definite, but cancelation is likely.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Spencer Dreher, email him at Sports@SouthingtonObserver.com.