An ‘agonizing decision’: NEC cancels indoor track championships
Less than two weeks after confirming its decision to cancel its entire fall sports schedule, the Northeast Conference was forced to make what league commissioner Noreen Morris referred to as an “agonizing decision” regarding a winter event.
The NEC announced Monday that it is canceling the 2021 Indoor Track and Field Championships, originally scheduled to take place between Feb. 19-20 at the Ocean Breeze Athletic Complex in Staten Island.
“In navigating a host of logistical issues, including insufficient resocialization time upon return from winter break and an almost non-existent competitive window prior to the event, we have made the agonizing decision to cancel this year’s NEC Indoor Track and Field Championships,” said Morris.
Norris, who on Oct. 2 pulled the plug on all fall competitions, including men’s and women’s soccer, didn’t think it was plausible to keep the annual event on the schedule with NEC athletics on pause due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“What this year has taught us is that we need to adjust as circumstances dictate in order to keep the health and safety of NEC student-athletes as our number one priority,” she noted.
“We will do everything possible moving forward to ensure our indoor track and field student-athletes have a robust outdoor experience this spring.”
What this means for other winter sports, most notably college basketball, isn’t quite clear yet.
But the Long Island University Sharks, who still play their home games at the Steinberg Wellness Center in Downtown Brooklyn, and Remsen Street’s St. Francis Terriers have to be alarmed that the most popular sport on their respective campuses is in danger of not having a 2020-21 season.
Regarding its decision to cancel the NEC Indoor Track and Field Championships, the league admitted that “NEC member institutions expressed concern with the ability for student-athletes to meet NCAA resocialization guidelines and ramp up to a championship caliber conditioning level upon returning to campus following an extended winter break.
“The lack of suitable dates to reschedule, restrictions on indoor gatherings in New York City and the challenges in meeting social distancing guidelines also played a role in this decision.”
Could the league’s outdoor track and field championships be next?
Not quite yet.
The release revealed that those events, scheduled for May 1-2 at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island, could still go on as planned.
However, the NEC Cross Country Championships in early March may not be so fortunate, as the league admitted that it is currently “exploring the viability of hosting” the event.
Last February, just weeks before the coronavirus halted both collegiate and pro sports globally, the LIU women’s team finished third at the NEC Indoor Championships while the men’s squad took fifth place.
The SFC men took 10th place at the event while the women’s squad finished 11th.
In local pro sports news, the New York Islanders continued a busy offseason Tuesday with the signings of forward Austin Czarnik and defenseman Grant Hutton.
Team president and general manager Lou Lamoriello, a Hall of Fame executive with a knack for picking talent off other teams’ rosters as well as developing players within his own organization, inked both players to two-year contracts.
The 27-year-old Czarnik has 38 points, including 13 goals, in 121 career NHL games with the Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins.
Hutton, 25, who was signed by Lamoriello as a college free agent in March of 2019, had 21 points in 55 games last season as a rookie with the Isles’ American Hockey League affiliate in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The moves came after New York’s participation in last week’s virtual NHL Draft and one day after Lamoriello sent defenseman Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche for a pair of future draft picks.
The Isles, who reached their first Eastern Conference finals since 1993 last month before being ousted in six games by the eventual Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, also lost reliable backup goaltender Thomas Greiss to Detroit via free agency on Monday.
Lamoriello countered the loss of Greiss by signing free agent New Jersey goalie Cory Schneider, whom he originally picked in the first round of the 2004 draft during his run as the Devils’ top exec.
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