Marcus Crittenden wanted closure just a few days after the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association postponed the basketball state tournaments.
The Sequoyah High School Athletic Director won’t be getting any closure during the aftermath of COVID-19.
The OSSAA announced it would cancel all remaining sporting events for the remainder of the academic year on Thursday, March 26.
“This is all so surreal,” Crittenden said on Monday. “It’s difficult on everyone involved, but my heart especially goes out to all of our students and those throughout the state and country who have lost key moments of the high school experience that you just can’t get back.
“As athletic director, I try to make sure that we have done everything possible to take care of logistical issues and everything else to allow our players and coaches to focus on their sport, their opponent, their games. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything about this. Under the circumstances, there was no alternative. OSSAA and OSDE did what they had to do. We clung to the long-shot hope that maybe it would just be a postponement, but as the virus spread, cancellation became inevitable.”
Neither of the Sequoyah basketball teams will get to finish off what were remarkable seasons that earned them spots in the state tournament. Both teams arrived in Oklahoma City the day before the postponements were announced.
“One moment your teams are in game day preparations for the first of what you hope will be three games. The next moment you’re packing up, loading the bus, and heading home,” Crittenden said.
The top-ranked Lady Indians were considered favorites to win their third state championship over the last four years. They were going in with a 26-1 record and had won 22 straight games under first-year head coach Justin Brown.
The No. 9 Indians, under head coach Jay Herrin, scratched and clawed their way to state, defeating fourth-ranked Beggs in a 3A Area Consolation Championship game to earn a berth. They finished with a 22-7 mark.
“Our teams and coaches worked so hard to put themselves in the best possible position to compete for a championship,” Crittenden said. “They extended our state record for consecutive years qualifying both girls and boys for the state basketball tournament in any classification to eight. The next closest in state history is six years. You are two days and three games away from a gold ball.”
Crittenden also won’t be able to overwatch the baseball, slowpitch softball, track and golf teams in the spring.
“I don’t know which is harder – playing an entire season up to the state tournament or missing an entire season. Both cut deeply,” Crittenden said. “Some of our students only compete in spring sports. Some of them compete in two spring sports – baseball and track, for example. For us, golf and slowpitch softball did lose the entire season, since our head coaches for those sports are also basketball coaches. Baseball was able to get four games in, opening the season with a 3-1 record, including 2-0 in district games. Track was able to compete in three indoor meets and one outdoor meet.”
There also won’t be any spring football practices, which is especially devastating for Sequoyah. The Indians are currently in the process of finding a new head coach.
“So much is up in the air right now — spring football, summer pride, and camps,” Crittenden said. “The best we can hope for now is that fall sports will be able to start as scheduled, but that is far from certain. Football is the fall sport that I think could be impacted the most by this. So much of the foundation of your season is connected to spring football, summer pride, and team camps. Getting bodies ready for the physical demands of the sport, bonding as a team, installing schemes, etc., all take time. In football, you need 11 players on the same page for an entire play, play after play. All schools are in the same boat with this, so when we start back up, hopefully we will be on a similar trajectory as we would have been otherwise.”
Sequoyah student-athletes can only now imagine what might have been. For seniors, it’s over.
“Our students are mourning the loss of a season,” Crittenden said. “As heartbreaking as all of this is, I know that our students, coaches, staff, parents, fans, and the rest of our school family are resilient. I couldn’t be prouder of our students – for all they have accomplished in the classroom, in their activities, and the character with which they have done it.
“At Sequoyah, we talk about honoring the SPEAR (Success, Perseverance, Excellence, Acceptance, Respect). Our student athletes have consistently honored the SPEAR and represented us well. I’m thankful for our health and pray that we will be spared from the devastation. Whenever this is over, we will be stronger for the experience.”
“These students have made such a mark on Sequoyah in every way possible,” Crittenden added. “We’ve had several state championships in their four years. Ten student athletes of the class of 2020 have signed to play their sport at the next level. The class of 2020 has already earned 10 all-states through the fall, including three for the arts and seven for athletics. That doesn’t include any all-states we might have for basketball and spring sports. They have earned district, regional, and area titles. They deserve to go out with a bang, not with the rug pulled out from under them by a virus.”