Coaches at Walla Walla Community College were disappointed but not surprised Thursday when decisions by the school and the Northwest Athletic Conference stopped their respective teams in their tracks because of the spread of the coronavirus.
"Devastated," is how women's basketball coach Bobbi Hazeltine described her players' reaction to the news that the NWAC Championships were being canceled.
"There were a lot of tears from our sophomores, especially from a couple of girls who will never play college basketball again," Hazeltine said. "It hit them pretty hard."
Rodeo coach Brent Palmer was in the indoor arena at the Walla Walla Fairgrounds setting up bleachers for Friday night's first performance when he was informed that this weekend's Northwest Regional Rodeo was being called off.
"They were all very disappointed," Palmer said of the members of his men's and women's rodeo teams. "Of course they were disappointed, but I think they all understand the big picture."
WWCC's weekend baseball home doubleheaders against Chemeketa and Clark had already been postponed on Wednesday when the visiting schools banned their teams from traveling. And by Thursday, coach Justin Speer's worst fears seemed to be coming true.
"As far as I know, the rest of the season is canceled," Speer said. "The NWAC is supposed to make that decision today, but I don't think it looks very good.
"It was pretty shocking to see everything unraveling,"Speer said. "When the College World Series got canceled, it makes it hard for us to say we can continue.
"The hardest part is explaining this to 39 18- and 19-year-olds who are at a point in their lives where (baseball) is the only thing that matters. But I think at some point we have to look and see that this is bigger than baseball and getting this virus under control is what we need to do."
The Warriors' softball team was slated to host North Idaho Friday and Spokane Saturday in its first two Eastern Region doubleheaders. But the college decided Thursday that those games would not be played.
"You have to err on the side of caution," WWCC athletic director Jeff Reinland said. "Everyone's been saying 'don't overreact, don't panic,' but Thursday was kind of D-Day and everything started shutting down.
"I just think everyone decided this is a little more serious than what we may have originally thought and it was time to put brakes on a little bit. You have to do what you have to do and follow suit with other people."
The NWAC was expected to make a decision this morning as to whether spring sports might resume at some point or if the remainder of the schedule would be canceled.
"If the NWAC says no more games, they are the official authority of the league," Reinland said. "If the NWAC shuts down competition, there's not going to be any.
"Along with that, individual schools have the right to make their own decisions, and we don't know which direction our school might go. There is no guarantee that we would continue, that decision would be made by the health and safety team here at the college."
The NWAC basketball tournaments were originally scheduled to be played in Everett beginning last weekend. But they were postponed after the completion of three women's games when it was learned that an Everett student had contracted COVID-19.
It was subsequently determined that the tournaments would be completed this weekend at Albany, Ore., and Oregon City. Those plans were scrapped and the tournament was canceled Thursday morning.
"It was exactly the same as last week," Hazeltine said, referring to her team's early departure from Everett when the tournaments were suspended last weekend. "We found out about 11:30 in the morning, packed up and checked out.
"We found out Wednesday night that we would be playing without fans, but our attitude was that at least we would get to play. And we thought we had a chance to win it all, and that is what is most disappointing of all."
Speer said he isn't sure how to move forward from here if the season is canceled.
"We don't know about restrictions, and there are eligibility concerns," Speer said. "At the bare minimum, I hope we can still practice in some capacity and move some of our sophomores on.
"I have talked to a lot of college coaches in the last day or two," Speer said, "and we are all scratching our heads."