COVID-19 concerns prompt cancellation of fall high school state championships

The Bartlett High School Golden Bears face off against the Chugiak Mustangs at Mulcahey Field in Anchorage for the 2017 state football semi-final. (Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

The Alaska School Activities Association has canceled this year’s state championship events for all fall high school sports and activities because of a rising number of coronavirus infections in Anchorage and other parts of the state. 

ASAA announced the decision on Tuesday. It applies to football, swimming and diving, gymnastics, rifle, music, eSports, drama, debate and forensics and volleyball, said a statement from the association. 

Also, all other activities are postponed until the association adopts a revised calendar, said Billy Strickland, the association’s executive director. That includes cross-country skiing, hockey and basketball.

Strickland said the association consulted with local and state health officials, and considered the current number of coronavirus cases, projections for later this year and the impact of travel during the holiday season.

“Taking away those state championship events is not something that’s done lightly,” he said. 

But, he said, when weighing the state of the coronavirus in Alaska and the upcoming holiday season, “the decision itself seemed pretty obvious.”

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“But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard,” he said.

The association said regions can hold their regional championships if they’re able to do so before Nov. 22. State championships were held last weekend for cross-country running and tennis.

The cancellations of the other events come days after Anchorage health officials identified a cluster of infections tied to a youth hockey tournament in the city, and asked the 300 people in attendance to start quarantining themselves and to get tested for the coronavirus.