Petition requests spring sports
be extended to summer
By Matt Harris
GUNNISON—As Utah now enters its fourth week without organized sports through the
Utah High School Activities Association (UHSAA), many people are betting on a permanent cancellation of spring sports this year. Not everyone, however.
Utah parents, kids, and fans have been showing their support and strong desire to see the return of spring sports with a petition which today bears roughly 18,000 signatures and counting.
The petition, started by Utah resident Marcus Newton, came nearly three weeks in response to the UHSAA’s decision to suspend all sports and activities in the wake of Governor Gary Herbert’s organized response to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The petition is online at change.org and is titled, “Extend high school 2020 spring sports into the summer and post-graduation.” It specifically asks the UHSAA and governments of Utah to reschedule the spring sports season for the coming summer and allow seniors eligibility to participate in this postponed season after they have already graduated.
“Soccer, softball, baseball, tennis, track and field, and many more sports give students a place to work hard and change so many lives,” the petition stated. “For many of these athletes, they have worked their entire lives just for this moment, especially the class of 2020 who may not have their senior year and senior night. These students are hardworking and amazing contributors to this great nation, and, for many, this was the highlight of their entire high school career.”
The petition later goes on to say, “Even if we don’t allow a fan base, LET THESE KIDS PLAY. If we can use state and federal budgets to pay millions of dollars in aid to those affected by the pandemic, can’t we postpone a season of sports?”
Newton did not respond to requests to comment on this story.
Many of the proponents of this petition have been coaches and athletes around the state. Gunnison track and field coach Carl Wimmer is one such proponent in Sanpete County who has been involved nearly “from the beginning.”
“We all feel so stinkin’ bad for the kids,” Wimmer said. “This the end of the road for them.”
Wimmer said much about the great excitement he had about the upcoming season. Not only was his team of Bulldogs the largest squad he had assembled in seven years of coaching, he recounted the frustrating end for many of his seniors on the cusp of greatness.
Senior Gracie Moysh, a shotputter for Gunnison, took second place in state for shotput as a junior last year, losing by roughly half a meter to a senior from Saint Joseph Catholic. Wimmer fully expected Moysh to bring home that title in 2020.
Another Gunnison athlete, senior sprinter Ethan “Ninja” Carter, placed seventh in the 100-meter finals last year, and Wimmer said Carter was vastly improving this season, his personal best of 11.5 seconds already significantly better than his 11.75 seconds at the state final.
More significantly, Carter was expecting, as Wimmer was, to get his best time under 11.32 seconds, an accomplishment which would have made him the fastest sprinter in the history of Gunnison Valley High School.
“Every coach has a dozen stories like this,” Wimmer said.
Stories and sentiments like this fueled the petition to grow at a wild pace, collecting over 10,000 signatures in its first week. The number crossed 17,800 last Tuesday morning.
Unlike many petitions that filter through change.org, Wimmer made it clear that this petition is not about making demands or fighting with the UHSAA. “The UHSAA has made it very clear that if they can give these kids a season, they will,” Wimmer said. “If they were looking to cancel it, they’d have done it by now.”
The petition doesn’t come without consideration of how the extension of the season may disrupt the lives of many young athletes and their families. Summer jobs would have to be put on hold, and for then-graduated seniors, the insistence to participate may mean a delay in college preparation, entering the workforce, or, for some 18-year old young men, missionary service.
Owing to these factors, Wimmer said that he and many other petitioners likely would not consider it worth it to try and extend the season any further than the middle of June. “We’re up against so many obstacles in the first place,” Wimmer said.
In the best case, if the UHSAA were to elect to continue the season in the summer, Wimmer predicted that the drop-off in athlete participation would be about “50 percent attrition, which is sad to me.”
The UHSAA announced on March 30 that they were extending their original suspension out to May 1, at which time they would be able to reevaluate and/or comply with the newest information and directives by the state.
Due to the UHSAA being out of office until April 13, UHSAA representatives were unavailable to comment on this story.