Another blow to high school athletics has come down the pipes but wasn't entirely unexpected.
The Alberta Schools' Athletic Association (ASAA) announced the cancellation of the high school track and field season, and for the second consecutive year, there won't be zone or provincial championships.
ASAA executive director John Paton announced the decision in a Mar. 9 memo.
"The Government of Alberta and AHS directives currently do not permit any interschool sport activities at this time, and there is simply no option where track and field provincials could be held in the foreseeable future," he writes.
"The health and safety of students, coaches, and others involved in school athletics remain the first priority of the ASAA, and this decision supports that notion," it continues. "School athletic programs are encouraged to continue to fully embrace the COVID-19 related directives of the Government of Alberta."
Likely, the news was taken better than when the last season was cancelled during the early stages of the pandemic.
Cochrane High Athletics Director Rob McNab says their athletes have become accustomed to the situation.
"I think the kids are really understanding about what's going on, a lot better than we did months and months ago. They're accepting it, they're finding other avenues, they're enrolling in sports performance classes during the day at school, and those sorts of things. They're finding other avenues to stay fit."
Without any hesitation, McNab said the ASAA made the right call.
"We're disappointed for the kids, obviously, but at the same time, we have to do our part. We have to stay safe in society, make sure that we're doing the right things and following all the right rules."
"ASAA has done their homework on this, and it's just not feasible. You definitely have to respect exactly what's going on out there, and they did a good job. It's the right thing."
While competition is a no-go, McNab says Cochrane High athletes will begin training after spring break with strict COVID-19 protocols in place.
Travis Cummings, track and cross-country coach at the St. Timothy Jr./Sr. High School, admits he wasn't surprised by the announcement. He believes school sports will continue to be disrupted in the fall.
"I think it would be ideal if sports were back in the fall where we have interscholastic sport, but I would expect to be having this conversation with coaches again in the fall. I just feel like things are going to be cancelled until mass vaccination occurs, and we're not expected to have 70 per cent of the population vaccinated until September or October."
"It sucks, but it's necessary. We have to do it because we have to keep the population safe, so I'm not going to whine about it because it's the right thing to do. Still, it is disappointing for the kids."
Cummings is also head coach of the Cochrane Endurance Project track and field club that is affiliated with Athletics Alberta. He says the shutdown of school sports is making sports clubs even more important for athletes who want to continue to train.
"We're still able to work out, practice, do time trials and stuff like that. We can't compete against other clubs right now, but the restrictions eased a little bit last week, and we're able to run consistent practice."
All three Cochrane high schools commonly have athletes advance to the provincials.
Cochrane High has been a dominant force among 3A schools for the last two decades, earning over a dozen provincial team banners.