Thursday, March 12th
From Wednesday night thru Thursday afternoon, the NBA, NHL and other sports leagues suspended their seasons in the wake of the coronavirus. Major League Baseball has suspended spring traning and postponed the start of the regular season at least two weeks.
And late Thursday afternoon, the NCAA announced it has called off it's men's and women's basketball tournaments, as well as a complete cancellation of all remaining spring and winter championships. That includes the Division Three hockey, where the Plattsburgh and Middlebury women were slated to host quarterfinal games Saturday, and the Norwich men would have hosted a game next weekend. Also, the NCAA skiing championships have been called off.
The biggest event impacted here in Vermont is the America East men's basketball championship. Just after noon Thursday, on the heels of almost every major basketball conference, like the ACC, Big Ten and SEC, announcing they were canceling their tournaments, the America East announced it was canceling the championship game, along with it's women's title game, set to be played at Stony Brook. It was another strong example of the rapidly changing nature of the situation, which UVM athletic director Jeff Schulman addressed in a press conference Thursday afternoon.
"You know it just started to become more and more clear once more and more conferences made the decision, some in the middle of games, to cancel their tournament that that really was the only responsible choice to make.", said Schulman. "So you know it certainly did feel like we were jumping around a little bit the decision making process but again, information was just changing so dramatically and rapidly and ultimately we just all tried to make the focus on our top priority which is the well-being of our student athletes and coaches and the responsibility that we all have to try to help keep everybody in the community safe."
The rule in America East is that should the conference tournament be cancelled, the highest remaining seed after the last completed round would receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. As the regular season champion, that would have been Vermont. But now, the Cats' season is over. Barring eligibity waivers, Tuesday night's victory over UMBC in the America East semifinals turned out to be the final game for UVM star Anthony Lamb, fellow senior captain Everett Ducan, and graduate transfer Daniel Giddens. It's a tough pill to swallow for head coach John Becker.
"Yeah we met as a team today and I kind of talked about each guy and to each guy about that and you know, guys were emotional and it was a unique experience just because like Jeff said there's no playbook for this. You don't know how to handle this but I was able to address each guy in front of the team so hopefully if that is the end, there's some closure there."
Early Thursday evening, UVM announced that, along with the entire America East conference, that all athletic activities, including games, practices and organized training, for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year have been canceled, effective immediately.
One bright spot on the day, the NCAA skiing championships continued in Bozeman, Montana, and concluded prior to the announcement by the NCAA of a halt of all current championships. That means the final two days of the event tomorrow and Saturday, have been canceled, marking Thursday's nordic races as the final day of competition. And it was a good one for our area athletes.
In the men's 10K freestyle, UVM sophomore Ben Ogden from Landgrove, Vermont, won the national title, topping the second place skier from Utah by three seconds. It's Ogden's first NCAA championship.
Fellow SkiCat Karl Schulz from Lake Placid, placed fifth, earning first team All-American honors, and Middlebury's Peter Wolter was ninth, pickup up a second-team All-American nod.
In the women's 5K free earlier, Middlebury, Dartmouth and Vermont all placed a skier in the top five. Middlebury's Sophia Laukli was second, Dartmouth's Katharine Ogden, Ben's older sister, was fourth and Evelina Sutro of UVM fifth. All first team All-Americans.
Former St. Johnsbury standout Alexandra Lawson of Middlebury was sixth and UVM's Margie Freed was ninth. In the team standings. Utah is first, followed by Denver. Middlebury is third and Vermont fourth.