Maryland High School Athletics postpone fall, winter competitions

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – When Maryland students begin classes at the start of the 2020-2021 academic year later this month, high school athletics will remain on the sidelines.

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced in a statement on Monday that the 2020 high school fall and winter competition will be postponed during the first semester.

The decision came after several districts elected to call off their athletic programs as they begin the school year learning virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fall semester sports that are immediately impacted are football, volleyball, cross country, soccer and field hockey. According to the projected start date schedule, athletes would have started tryouts on August 12 with their first play dates scheduled for Sept. 4. Winter sports, like basketball, would have begun their workouts on Nov. 14.

The Maryland State Board of Education voted in June, allowing each jurisdiction to control how to navigate its athletic competitions. Prince George’s County announced in mid-July its decision to put athletics “on hold” during the distance learning process, whereas Montgomery County canceled of all fall and winter sports.

The wavier granted by the state’s education board does allow counties to decide to provide “student engagement” during the first semester. Anne Arundel County Superintendent George Arlotto said he asked Coordinator of Athletics Clayton Culp to outline a plan that allows all sports practices during the fall that “meet local and state health and safety guidelines.”

MPSSAA recently announced the postponement of high school athletics for fall and winter seasons. Courtesy photo.

“There is no question that athletics are an extremely important part of the high school student experience,” Arlotto said in a statement. “The MPSSAA has created an opportunity here of which I believe we should take full advantage. I am confident that Mr. Culp and his team will do everything they can to come up with the best possible plan to move forward.”

MPSSAA said it would work with the Public School Superintendent Association of Maryland and the state’s health department on creating a hybrid “two-semester plan” that will have all public high school sports in the state compete during the second semester in 2021. The association said it plans to release more details before the start of the 2020-2021 academic year.

“The health and safety of student participants, coaches and officials is a primary concern for the return of interscholastic athletics and activities,” the association said.

Maryland joins Washington, D.C. and Virginia, who announced the postponement of their fall sports programs until 2021. Last week, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) said it would reschedule its upcoming fall sports season to January 2021.

The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) announced in a joint statement in July that they will delay their fall preseason until Sept. 1 and league play commencing on Sept. 21.

WCAC reschedules all fall high school sports to January

By Brooks Warren/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – The Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) is rescheduling its upcoming fall sports season to January 2021, becoming the latest interscholastic athletics association to be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Commissioner Stephen Colantuoni said he met with athletic directors of member schools multiple times since March, coming up with different plans to resume athletics once schools reopen. Colantuoni said the goal was to come back with their full slate of fall sports, including football, soccer, cross-country field hockey, volleyball and tennis.

However, as time wore on and the continued spread of COVID-19 across the metropolitan region, the decision was made to hold off playing during the fall. The plan discussed during a meeting with the heads of schools last week, according to Colantuoni. 

“We held off for as long as we could,” Colantuoni said. “The biggest problem we have is we play in two different states and the District of Columbia, and we have seven jurisdictions, and every one of them is different.”

The WCAC is comprised of 13 private schools and must adhere to local guidelines regarding outside and indoor gatherings during the pandemic. As private institutions, they are not obligated to adhere to any public school system guidelines and can act independently in terms of having athletic competitions on school property.

The league will be monitoring restrictions placed on its schools across their jurisdictions and the feasibility of moving all fall athletics to early 2021. It will, however, consider playing a conference-only schedule, Colantuoni said.

“We made a commitment to our kids,” Colantuoni said. “That we are going to try as best we can to get a season in some time down the road. That’s the whole thing; our athletics are second to none.”

Colantuoni also stated the conference is focus on assuring all its student-athletes an opportunity to play this upcoming school year.

“Our spring sports, they got beat last (season), and they didn’t get to play at all,” Colantuoni said. “So that was really difficult for them, so I don’t want to do that two (seasons) in a row.”

The conference’s decision comes after multiple school districts and associations elect to reschedule or cancel their athletic programs.

Both District of Columbia State Athletic Association and the Virginia High School League made plans to move their fall sports to February 2021. However, Montgomery County Public School canceled their fall and winter seasons and Prince George’s County Public Schools’ athletics are postponed during virtual learning.

Moving the season to the spring can become problematic because college football prospects can enroll early and leave before the start of the season. Other possible concerns include the physical health of senior athletes who plan to enroll during the summer months will be entering workouts weeks after concluding a spring football season.

High school sports round-up: MCPS cancels fall, winter season while PGCPS puts athletics on hold

By Jose Umana and Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributors

BETHESDA — Two of the state’s largest school districts have announced the cancellation of fall sports for the 2020 season.

Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Superintendent Jack Smith said in a statement Tuesday that the school system will provide virtual-only learning for the first semester. The model also includes the cancellation of all fall and winter sports.

Ever since MCPS leaders have been exploring different methods to reopen schools in the fall, they have received additional guidance from Travis Gayles from the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services.

According to Smith, Gayles recommended that in-person instruction should not take place in school buildings. Instead, MCPS’ original plan of going virtual-only learning for at least until the end of the first semester on Jan. 29, 2021, or when state and local health officials approve their return would be the safer option.  

“This decision includes the cancellation of all fall and winter sports,” Smith said.

Smith said MCPS would reassess after the first quarter (Nov. 9) to determine if it can implement a phased blended model in the second semester, which begins Feb. 1, 2021. 

“We will continue to engage with our community as we continue to navigate this incredibly complex situation,” Smith said.

The sports that are affected include football, basketball, indoor track, wrestling, volleyball, cross country, soccer, field hockey and swimming. 

In a letter to the county’s sports community, Athletic Director Jeffrey Sullivan said that the department is “deeply saddened” by the cancelation, but health and safety is the No. 1 priority. 

“When the time comes for us to return to action, we will do what we do best–provide meaningful opportunities for our student-athletes to excel and bring our communities together,” Sullivan said. 

PGCPS puts athletics on hold during distant learning phase

Montgomery County’s decision comes as Prince George’s County Schools (PGCPS) announced its decision to put athletics on hold for the fall semester last Wednesday.

During her press conference about the school system’s reopening plans, Chief Executive Officer Dr. Monica Goldson said she had to address athletics after receiving “daily” questions on its status. When school starts on Aug. 31, PGCPS will open virtually with distance learning until the end of the second quarter on Jan. 29, 2021.

With the focus on ensuring the proper education and safety to students during the pandemic, Goldson said PGCPS could not operate athletics when the school year begins.

“At this time, we will not be able to implement interscholastic activities that will allow our students to remain safe,” Goldson said.

Instead, all student-athletes will be able to work together with their school’s athletic directors in virtual seminars. Other accommodations will be made for student-athletes who were preparing for recruiting and applying for college, according to a Twitter town hall PGCPS conducted.

Unlike MCPS, Goldson did not say when the hold on sports would end. In a statement, the Office of Interscholastic Athletics said as PGCPS enters the next phase of virtual learning, athletics will restart at “the lowest risk of participation” for students and staff, including at-home conditioning, a virtual re-introduction of athletics and additional online resources. 

“We will continue to keep you updated around the state as decisions are made surrounding athletic sports, but we will be offering opportunities for students in their clubs and organizations to continue virtually,” Goldson said. 

Both counties’ decisions come after Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) announced the state’s education system voted in favor of allowing each jurisdiction to control how to navigate its athletic programs. 

Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Anne Arundel counties will all go virtual learning in the fall. However, only Baltimore County has joined Montgomery and Prince George’s in postponing their fall and winter athletic season. 

MPSSAA released its Roadmap for Return of Interscholastic Athletics, which provides detailed guidelines for how counties should handle any cancelation of activities, modified and gradual resumption of sports and full resumption and administration of activities. 

The state’s athletic association will update and modify the fall practice schedule on July 21 and 28 and Aug. 4. Depending on the number of schools participating in a regular season, MPSSAA will determine the status of the fall state championships in October. 

DC-area high school associations delay start of fall sports season

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Three high school athletics associations in the D.C.-metropolitan region announced their decisions to delay the start of the fall sports season as schools prepare to administer classes during the coronavirus pandemic.

DCSAA plans to move football, fall sports to 2021

On late Thursday, the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) said it would start its athletic season with winter sports in December, moving fall sports to 2021. Cross-country, football, soccer and volleyball will instead begin to play in February 2021 and end their season on April 16, according to a news release.

“Given the current environment, it just is not feasible to begin practice Aug. 1 and competition later that month,” DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said. “The safety of student-athletes and coaches remains our top priority.”

Ray said all of 49 public, charter and independent (private and parochial) member high schools were consulted before the decision was announced.

Going forward, the DCSAA will follow a “Condensed Interscholastic Plan” with the winter sports starting their playing schedules first. Team practices begin on Dec. 14 with games reduced to a two-month competition between Jan. 4 to Feb. 28. Meanwhile, spring athletics starts from April 19 until June 13.

DCSAA will need the final approval from Mayor Muriel Bowser as well as the D.C. Department of Health to go forward with the new athletic schedule. Ray called the reduced plan “the best solution” based on the current data and science that assures students will have the opportunity to play during the 2020-21 school year.

“These are unprecedented times, and first and foremost, the DCSAA remains committed to the welfare of our student-athletes,” Chairperson Rosalyn Overstreet-Gonzalez said. “We are hopeful this model will keep all of our incredible student-athletes engaged and focused and also allow them to take the court or the field this school year and showcase their talents.”

Individual conferences that host private and independent schools within DCSAA can still have their member institutions participate in athletics in a different schedule.

The most recognized private school league in the D.C.-area, the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC), has yet to announce its decision to hold a fall season.

MIAA, IAAM delay start until late September

In a joint statement, the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) announced the delayed start to their 2020 fall season, as practices will start on Sept. 1 and games will take place after Sept. 21.

The two governing bodies of private school sports, representing boys (MIAA) and girls (IAAM) of over 30 institutions, were set to start training camps in mid-August.

The two-week pushback will also include the waiver of blackout periods and out of season practice policies until further notice.

While the start dates are in September, the board of governors of both leagues will meet in August to determine if the delay needs to be extended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Once an official start date is confirmed, a newly revised schedule for fall athletics will be released, the statement said.

“Participation in healthy athletic practices provides our student-athletes opportunities to compete, build character, acquire, and improve skills, demonstrate leadership, and have fun,” the statement said. “Both leagues hope to honor this commitment and, at the same time, keep athletes and their coaches as healthy as possible.”

Public schools in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties have announced their intentions to start their school years virtually but not if fall athletics will remain as scheduled.

In early June, the Maryland State Board of Education passed a resolution that would allow area public school systems the flexibility to schedule their interscholastic athletics based on “local conditions” created by COVID-19.

DeMatha football standout Greg Penn III commits to LSU

By Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse Contributor

Four-star linebacker will take his talents to SEC football powerhouse 

BALTIMORE — DeMatha linebacker Greg Penn III, a four-star recruit and highly touted prospect of prominent college football programs, announced his commitment to Louisiana State University (LSU) on Sunday afternoon.

The rising senior recently narrowed his school list down to six: LSU, Maryland, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee, and Texas A&M. Of those six, he was expected to commit to either LSU or South Carolina. 

On July 6, Penn posted on Twitter that he would publicly decide on July 12, leaving hundreds in anticipation of the announcement.

In a three-and-a-half-minute video posted to Penn’s Instagram page, he announced his commitment to the 2020 NCAA football championship program.

“First and foremost, I would like to thank God for the gifts that he has provided both on and off the football field. I also want to thank the many coaches and universities for recognizing my talents,” said Penn, who helped the Stags to a 7-4 record in 2019.

“Through this journey, my family has been my biggest fan…they are my reason why. I would like to thank my dad for encouraging me to strive for greatness, academically and athletically. I am thankful for my current and former coaches, as well as my trainers for believing in me.

“A special thanks to my DeMatha brothers, the DeMatha administration, and teachers who helped me to be the best version of myself. To whom much is given, much is expected. Therefore, I will be taking my gifts to the Louisiana State University.”

Penn, a tenacious pass rusher with a 6-foot-1, 225-pound frame, is regarded as a good fit for LSU’s defensive scheme. Past conversations and encounters between LSU defensive coordinator Bo Pelini and Penn likely played a large part in the prospect’s decision. 

“They have a great track record of getting linebackers to the league,” Penn said according to a report. “Coach Pelini and I really have a great relationship. Over the last couple of months, our relationship has really gone to the next level and I just feel comfortable there. I could really just see myself playing in that stadium when I went to that Florida game. I really got chills and I knew that’s where I wanted to go.”

Penn is the latest addition in LSU’s prolific 2020 recruiting class, many of whom are nationally ranked defensive standouts at their respective high school programs. 

A 24/7 Sports report noted Penn’s characterization of LSU as LBU (‘linebacker university’), a reference to the school’s pipeline of linebackers into the NFL over recent years. Penn hopes to join the class of elite DeMatha athletes to make his mark on the collegiate level when he transitions to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, in 2021.

Our favorite photos from the Spring Sports Season

Baseball: Photos by Cory Royster/The Sports Pulse

The Coronavirus pandemic has swept the nation and has taken away sports altogether for us to enjoy.

However, we wanted to showcase the work of our award-winning photographers. Each week we will have them select their Top 10 favorite photos from each sport throughout the spring sports season.

We will run these galleries until every sport that we cover is represented to get you closer to the action until life returns to normal.

MoCo and PG County athletes win MPSSAA scholarship awards

By Harry Lichtman and Demetrius Dillard/The Sports Pulse

GREENBELT — The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) has announced the winners of the 2020 Minds in Motion Scholar-Athlete scholarships, with a male and female recipient being selected from each of MPSSAA’s nine districts.

Back in March, the MPSSAA state semifinals had to be postponed and eventually canceled, along with the spring sports season, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic student-athletes were awarded nonetheless.

Two Montgomery County Class of 2020 winning athletes were Reece Petrolle of Damascus High School and Joanne Liu of Thomas S. Wootton High School.

Petrolle was a member of the boys’ lacrosse team at Damascus, as his senior season was unfortunately taken away from him due to the pandemic.

“It’s such a great honor for Reece to win the award,” said Swarmin’ Hornets Athletic Director Cliff Elgin. “He is a true student-leader and a great voice for our student body and supporter of all our athletic teams.”

While Petrolle mainly played boys lacrosse for Damascus, he was also on the football team until injuries prevented him from playing football any further.

Liu is also a multi-skilled athlete, competing as a swimmer and running track and field for Wootton, as she became the school’s first recipient of the award.

“We are all very excited,” said Patriots athletic director Alton Lightsey. “I was also able to teach her last year in Advanced Placement Language and Composition, where she impressed me with her analytical thinking and writing.”

Parkdale, Eleanor Roosevelt student-athletes honored with ‘Minds In Motion’ scholarships

David Onwonga of Parkdale High School and Jourdan Page of Eleanor Roosevelt High School have demonstrated outstanding initiative in the classroom and in their respective sports, prompting the MPSSAA to award them the ‘Minds in Motion’ student-athlete scholarships.

Of the 650 applicants throughout the state, only 18 were recognized, which speaks volumes as to how distinguished the honorees were. 

Each winner was awarded $1,000 apiece. According to the MPSSAA, applicants had to be seniors with a minimum 3.25 weighted GPA and “have participated in interscholastic athletic activities sponsored by MPSSAA.”

The Allstate Foundation has sponsored this thirteenth annual program since its inception in 2008. A total of $152,000 in scholarship funds has contributed towards empowering and supporting the education of tomorrow’s future leaders. 

Onwonga was beyond qualified for the Minds in Motion scholarship with a 4.1 weighted GPA and having excelled in outdoor and indoor track & field, basketball, and cross country between his sophomore, junior and senior seasons.

Parkdale Athletic Director Brian Moore said he encouraged Onwonga to apply for the scholarship in early spring. Onwonga took a stab at it, and a few months later, MPSSAA sent an email notifying him that he was a scholarship winner.

“I knew he was certainly qualified for it,” Moore said.

“This goes to show, once again, whatever stereotype you have about Parkdale or Prince George’s County athletics, he (Onwonga) comes to dispel any of those myths…What he’s done with this particular award is put Parkdale High School on the map and in the conversation with other schools around the state that we produce stellar student-athletes.”

Of the 18 award winners, Onwonga may have one of the unique stories. He went from battling asthma to becoming one of the best long-distance runners in PG County. 

He endured a good deal of injuries and setbacks, but let none of the adversity hinder his success as a student-athlete.

As a sophomore, Onwonga tried out for the basketball team and was cut initially due to lack of stamina, he said, which of course, was a result of having asthma. However, the coach allowed him to participate on the team anyway and gave him a piece of sound advice at the end of the season that would change his high school athletic career.

“When the (basketball) season ended, he directed me toward track conditioning to get my endurance levels up,” Onwonga said.

“I trained for like two months… and I ended up winning county’s at the novice level.”

His sophomore season, Onwonga competed in the 800-meter run for Parkdale’s track & field program and won the county championships at the novice level. 

David Onwonga pictured above. Courtesy Photo.

As a junior, Onwonga ran cross country but unfortunately suffered a hip flexor tendonitis injury halfway the indoor track season, sidelining him for about four months, which means he missed the county championships, regionals, states and majority of the outdoor track season.

After recovering from the injury, Onwonga returned for the final three weeks of the outdoor season and set a personal record in the 800 with a time of 2:07.

“What drives me is not winning, but seeing my time improve,” Onwonga said. “When I see that I improve from a certain time, it makes me want to work harder.”

The summer before his senior year, Onwonga got hurt again: this time, a hamstring injury took a month to heal. Nonetheless, he was able to bounce back in the fall and place third in the county championship and at regionals. 

Onwonga went on to win the county title in the 800-meter run (time of 2:02) as a senior. 

Then arose another obstacle that unfortunately sidelined Onwonga for the regional and state meets: a plantar fasciitis injury.

Jourdan Page, an outside hitter for Roosevelt’s volleyball team, was a starter for three seasons after being bumped up from junior varsity as a freshman. Throughout her career with the Raiders, she has led her team to a regional championship, a county championship, and a 4A state semifinal appearance.

“It’s awesome to see someone recognize her for not only her athletic accomplishments but also the other parts of her Roosevelt achievements,” said Head Coach Scott Fifield.

As a junior and a senior, Page led Roosevelt in kills (170 this past season) and was second in digs.

Page, also a captain on the team, also recorded 52 aces, 34 blocks and 44 digs as part of a stellar senior campaign. Additionally, Page boasts a 3.8 weighted GPA. She applied for the scholarship in April, she said.

“I was honestly just looking for scholarships that I would qualify for, so I just saw this one, and I was like ‘Why not?’ It’s better that I apply for it and just see what happens than not go for it at all,” Page said.

“I was just very honored to receive (the award). Not just for the money, but the recognition is nice because it shows how much – being an athlete – you have to work on the court as well as off the court to be balanced.”

Page will head several miles north to compete for one of the better volleyball programs in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) at Morgan State University.

Page added to her athletic and academic accolades as a board member with the Student Government Association, the Black Student Union, and a volunteer with the Emerging Youth Leaders program and All America’s Youth Growth & Development program. 

According to Page, the fact that two PG County athletes were selected for the scholarship disproves any negative stigma attached to local athletics and academics. 

“I feel like people tend to look down on PG County sometimes, so it shows, you know, we have talent that needs recognition too,” she said.

MPSSAA awards remaining basketball schools official semifinalist titles

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

HYATTSVILLE – The Maryland Public Secondary School Athletic Association (MPSSAA) will officially recognize the remaining 16 boys and girls basketball teams that advanced to the final stages of the state finals as tournament semifinalists.

According to Executive Director R. Andrew Warner, the decision comes after the remaining rounds of each respective tournament, scheduled for March 12-14, was postponed and ultimately canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The MPSSAA firmly believes the schools and student-athletes, who were on the verge of participating in the state semifinals/finals, deserve appropriate recognition for their accomplishments within their respective school’s historic basketball season,” Warner said.

Each team and student-athlete will be named a state semifinalist in the state record book. Schools will receive a set of commemorative roster cards and an official Spalding-TF1000 Classic game ball.

“The MPSSAA would like to commend the coaches, student-athletes and school administrators for the manner in which they conducted themselves during these unprecedented events surrounding the initial postponement and ultimate cancellation of these contests,” Warner said.

In the boys’ brackets, No. 5 Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School were making their first Class 4A state semifinals appearance since 2017.

The Upper Marlboro-based school prepared to take on No. 1 Richard Montgomery, who was making its second consecutive appearance in the state semifinals. Another Montgomery County School, No. 2 Springbrook, prepared to face Parkville in the other Class 4A semifinal.

In the Class 2A semifinals, No. 4 Frederick Douglass was hoping to upset No. 1 Wicomico to make their first finals appearance since 2009. Fairmont Heights of Prince George’s County returned to the state semifinals for the first time since 2018 as the No. 7 seed in the Class 1A boys semifinals.

The Hornets were scheduled to face No. 3 Lake Clifton of Baltimore.

Meanwhile, on the girls’ side, No. 3 Winston Churchill prepared to take on the reigning champions No. 2 Charles H. Flowers in the Class 4A semifinals. In the Class 3A semifinals, No. 7 Rockville, who was making their first state semifinals appearance since 1987, would have faced No. 3 Baltimore Polytechnic Institute.

Prince George’s County teams CMIT-North and Surrattsville were both on opposite sides of the Class 1A bracket and would have faced each other if they won their semifinal games.

DCSAA joins Virginia, in canceling spring season

By José Umaña/The Sports Pulse Contributor

WASHINGTON – With cases of the coronavirus known as COVID-19 growing in the metropolitan region, the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) announced its decision to cancel this year’s spring sports season on April 17. 

Officials worked with Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office before canceling its season and promised to continue promoting the city’s tips to stay healthy during the pandemic. Established in 2012, DCSAA is comprised of 49 of the city’s public, public charter and independent (private and parochial) high schools according to its website. 

“We are disappointed for those student-athletes who will not have the opportunity to compete and showcase their skills during their senior season,” DCSAA Executive Director Clark Ray said. “But we fully support the mayor’s decision and recognize the importance we collectively play in helping to flatten this curve and stop the spread of this deadly virus.”

Before the cancelation was confirmed, D.C. Public Schools announced its decision to continue online learning for the rest of the school year. During a presentation on April 17, Bowser confirmed that school buildings would remain closed, and the city’s stay-at-home order was extended until May 15.

Spring sports in the District include baseball, cheerleading, chess, outdoor track and field, softball, tennis and ultimate frisbee. Multiple teams began their campaigns and played 1-2 games before the shutdown in March. 

“People need to follow all the recommendations issued by the CDC, the District of Columbia Department of Health, and the mayor,” Ray said. “The health and safety of our student-athletes, coaches and school administrators are our number one priority.”

DCSAA’s decision comes after both Virginia High School League (VHSL) and Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association (VISAA) canceled their spring seasons in March. Both leagues cited the need to support the state’s call to close all public and private schools. Spring sports in Virginia are baseball, softball, lacrosse, soccer, tennis and outdoor track. 

District schools who participate in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference (WCAC) had their conference games paused after Commissioner Steve Colantuoni announced the suspension of all athletic activities on March 16. He added that officials were attempting to create “a modified schedule” for the spring season, a task made harder with both D.C. and Virginia closed. 

Big 33 Football Classic nixed 

Meanwhile, the Big 33 Football Classic showcase, an annual senior football all-star game featuring top players from Pennsylvania and Maryland, has been called. 

In a letter to coaches, participants, and fans on April 14, Executive Director Gary Cathell said the “uncertainty” caused by the spread of COVID-19 forced event officials to cancel all events related to the showcase, which would have taken place on Memorial Day on May 25. 

“It is about protecting our players and fans,” Team Maryland Director Scott Ripley said. “I am truly disappointed for the players selected to this year’s team. They will be missing out on something that they would never forget in a lifetime. We wish them total success in college this coming fall.”

Maryland is the only state in the region whose public and private school leagues have yet to announce its spring season plans. The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA), which works with the state’s public schools, suspended all athletic activities on March 27, including the semifinal and final rounds of the boys and girls basketball tournament. 

As of April 18, MPSSAA has not announced its plans as Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan extends distant learning for students until May 15. If any spring competitions were to take place after May 23, the association would need to pass an amendment to extend the athletic calendar, according to its handbook. 

Schools associated with The Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) and the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland (IAAM) had its postponement extended on March 30. In a joint statement, both leagues said they would work together to formulate a plan to restart their seasons.  

“The leadership of the MIAA and IAAM remain hopeful that both leagues will be able to offer our student-athletes an opportunity to return to play at some point this season,” the statement said. “Both leagues will continue in their efforts to consider possible options dependent upon the re-opening of schools.”  

Looking back at the top performances of the inaugural girls wrestling championships

By Lem Satterfield/The Sports Pulse Wrestling Writer

UPPER MARLBORO – Walt Whitman High School senior Stephanie Solloso was within 20 seconds of accomplishing her dream of winning a second consecutive girls wrestling title in three championship appearances – if not losing it.

Down by a point against senior Julia Fitzpatrick of James M. Bennett High School in the 127-pound finals of the inaugural Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association’s (MPSSAA) state championship tournament at The Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro on March 6-7, Solloso was competing two years after a runner-up finish in the first annual girls’ invitational folk-style event and following a 127-pound title-winning performance in last season.

“I was down by one point [11-10] within the last 20 seconds,” said Solloso of the females’ first officially sanctioned state championship, which was contested simultaneously alongside the boys.’ “I realized that I had to do something or else I was gonna lose.”

Solloso scored a buzzer-beating takedown for a dramatic 12-11 decision, having reached the finals on pins in the first and second periods.

“I got my two points for the takedown in the last second,” said Solloso, who ended the year with a 7-2 record. “This feels great and provides me with quite a memory to be able to be at and to win an official state tournament. I’ll be able to brag about this to my kids.”

Solloso was among 14 female title winners and among five from Montgomery County, the latter including Wootton High School sophomore Jasmine Gong (100), Richard Montgomery freshman Nadia Estrada (122), Montgomery Blair freshman Jackalyn Heath (144) and Watkins Mill junior Seda Tsami (152).

A third-place finisher in last year’s tournament, Tsami pinned twice before winning her title bout, 12-5, over Dulaney senior Nicole Wanga.

Heath pinned all three of her opponents, including Smithsburg High School freshman Allie Grosnickle at 4:51 of their final, and Gong required two falls, the last at the 2:36 mark of her title match against Quince Orchard High School junior Becca Soto.

Estrada decked senior Ogechi Nwughala at 2:47 of their championship bout after having won her two previous matches on tough decisions of 12-10 and 4-2.

Solloso’s older brothers wrestled for Whitman coach Derek Manon, with Anthony graduating in 2014, and Marcos, in 2016, after being a regional runner-up.

“Marcos had a motor that was unmatched,” said Vikings’ coach Derek Manon. “He won The Grapple At The Brook [at Springbrook High] as a senior.”

Marcos was mat-side for at states for his little sister, said Stephanie Solloso.

“My older brother Marcos was on the sidelines, coaching me, and recording my match. He’s always been there, and he’s made it clear on just how proud he is of me,” said Solloso, who pinned senior Brooke Markell of Baltimore County’s Kenwood High School in 2:38 of last year’s state championship match.

“My brothers were the only reason I started on the mats. Watching their matches when I was in seventh and eighth grade made me want to be out there wrestling the guys they were up against…I would get anxious and be stressed from just watching. But during my freshman year, I ended up going to the first practice, and I’ve loved it from the first day.”

Other champions were Bowie senior Krista Kappes (106), Fairmont Heights juniors Nina Small (112), Smithsburg freshman Jen Hood (117), Dulaney sophomore Sarah Sunday (132), Middletown senior Kalin Bower (138), Randallstown junior Jaylen Hyman (164), Western Tech sophomore Mame Thiam (180), Eleanor Roosevelt senior Arrey Mbutambe (200) and Great Mills freshman Jocelyn Cacek (225).