The soundtrack for celebratory moments played at sporting venues following championship games has been set for decades. You can generally safely bet it’ll be one of two songs: Queen’s “We are the Champions” or Kool and the Gang’s “Celebration.”
For some reason, Billy Joel’s “Vienna” was played on the public address system at Troy High School on Feb. 29 when girls basketball teams cut down nets following Division IV district finals, including after Fort Loramie’s win over Franklin-Monroe.
The song isn’t exactly one most would deem appropriate for a celebratory moment for a high school sports team winning a championship. Joel’s lyrics criticize overly-motivated juveniles and encourage them to slow down and not be too ambitious.
“You’ve got your passion, you’ve got your pride/But don’t you know that only fools are satisfied?/Dream on, but don’t imagine they’ll all come true.”
Whoever opted to play “Vienna” ended up providing foreshadowing for the Redskins — and every other winter sports team in the country. Dreams of winning a championship aren’t coming true for anyone this season.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association announced on Thursday all remaining winter sports tournament events are canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The OHSAA’s announcement comes after most other state high school associations and the NCAA had canceled their remaining winter sports tournaments.
The OHSAA indefinitely postponed all winter sports tournaments on March 12, three days after the state’s first confirmed coronavirus case.
Despite the virus slowly spreading throughout the state the last two weeks and a host of crowd limit orders and an eventual stay-at-home order coming from Gov. Mike DeWine, the association said it was holding out hope on finishing the tournaments in April.
Fort Loramie coach Carla Siegel said while it’s disappointing the tournaments have been canceled, it’s a bit relieving a final decision was made after a two-week limbo period.
“The last two weeks were hard on everybody, so the only consolation today is having an answer,” Siegel said. “We can all move forward now. We can plan a sports award program and honor our girls for all the accomplishments they had this year.”
Fort Loramie, which was the top-ranked D-IV team in the final state Association Press poll, finishes 26-0 overall. The Redskins will lose four seniors to graduation: guards Kennedi Gephart and Taylor Ratermann and forwards Marissa Meiring and Macy Imwalle.
“They were a special group,” Siegel said. “… We didn’t have (any seniors) last year and we asked the juniors to be leaders, and they carried that over this year. I’ve always said if your hardest workers are the leaders of your team, you’re in good shape to do amazing things.
“I can’t say enough about Kennedi, Taylor, Macy and Marissa. They were great leaders in practices, in the locker room, during games. And even in the classroom, they’re phenomenal students and phenomenal people. So it’s not surprising our season was what it was; we had phenomenal leaders.”
The Redskins were slated to face Willoughby Cornerstone Christian in a state semifinal on March 12, while neighboring rival Minster was scheduled to face Beverly Fort Frye.
“From what we’ve seen the last three weeks, the decision they made was necessary,” Minster coach Mike Wiss said of the OHSAA’s decision to cancel.
“After the loss of seven seniors from the last two years, I’m really proud of this group,” Wiss said. “I think we were really playing well at the end of the year. Those people that witnessed us in our two regional games in Elida were looking forward to seeing us in Columbus.
“We had good leadership, and our basketball IQ had come a long way. …You ask your seniors to provide leadership to your young kids, and they did that. We don’t look at what we accomplished as a team; we look at us as a program. We just continue to try and build our program.”
Anna’s girls team was slated to face Columbus Africentric in a state semifinal on March 13. The team had an exciting tournament run as it rallied from deficits in its last three games to earn a state berth.
“We’d have liked to have played it obviously, but there’s a lot of stuff in the world going on that’s bigger than basketball,” Anna coach Jeff Maurer said. “In these circumstances, the OHSAA made the right decision looking out for everybody’s safety.
“It’s hard, especially for the seniors with it being their last go-around. But I told them to focus on what they were able to accomplish and not stress or worry about the what-ifs.”
The Rockets finish 22-6 and will lose three seniors to graduation: guard Michaela Ambos and forwards Kiplyn Rowland and Lauren Barhorst.
“I’m pretty proud of what they were able to accomplish this year,” Maurer said. “… It’s quite an accomplishment. I can’t say enough about our three seniors, Michaela, Kiplyn and Lauren. They stepped up and were big for us all year long. We started the season out a little slow at 6-4 but the girls just kept working. We have a lot of good memories.”
Jackson Center’s boys basketball team was scheduled to play Columbus Wellington School in a regional final on March 13. The Tigers finish 22-5 and will lose seven seniors to graduation: Mason Platfoot, Christopher Elchert, Garrett Heitkamp, Clay Akers, Garrett Prenger, Jerron Reese and Calvin Winner.
“I’m sure I’m like every other coach still in it that we hate to see it end like this, but the circumstances dictated otherwise,” Jackson Center coach Scott Elchert said.
Elchert said his son Christopher sent a message to OHSAA commissioner Jerry Snodgrass thanking him for making an effort to finish the tournament.
“We appreciate him for hanging on for as long as he could and for the endurance and respect for the tournament. We’ll all move forward from this and become better for it,” Elchert said.
Aside from girls and boys basketball tournaments, the state championship meet for wrestling and state semifinals and final for ice hockey were also postponed.
Snodgrass said in a statement the decision to cancel was difficult.
“We are just devastated that the tournaments cannot be completed,” Snodgrass said. “But our priority is the safety of our student-athletes, coaches, communities and officials. …Even if our schools reopen this spring, it will be difficult to find facilities willing to host the tournaments. Most campuses are shut down until mid to late summer.
“We are already planning for ways that these student-athletes will be honored at next year’s state tournaments.”
The tournaments are the first winter postseason events canceled by the association, which was founded in 1907.
Some tournaments were canceled from 1941 through 1945 during World War II, but boys basketball and wrestling tournaments were held during those years. Girls basketball didn’t become a sanctioned sport until the 1975-76 season and hockey wasn’t sanctioned until 1978.
Regular-season play for spring sports was originally scheduled to begin this weekend but the OHSAA postponed the start of the season on March 12.
Practices are tentatively scheduled to begin on April 6 with regular-season play slated to start the following week — but that is increasingly looking unlikely.
Snodgrass said in a press conference last week the association will further postpone spring sports if Gov. DeWine extends an order for school buildings to be closed, which is in effect until April 6. DeWine has repeatedly stated that order will likely be extended, but he won’t make a decision until closer to April 6.
Until then, spring sports athletes are left dreaming — and hoping to avoid foreshadowing from Billy Joel songs.
Reach Bryant Billing at 937-538-4818, or follow @SidneyOHSports on Twitter and @BryantBillingSDN on Facebook.