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Surge of COVID may delay start of prep sports in county
CVHS players condition
Stanislaus County high school athletes can no longer use weight equipment and facilities on campus due to safety concerns related to COVID-19. Pictured: Central Valley High School football players Isaiah Hidalgo and Amari Taylor.

The California Interscholastic Federation condensed three seasons of high school athletics—fall, winter and spring—into two seasons on July 22 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The start dates for the first tier of sports, including cross country, water polo, volleyball and football, in Stanislaus County might have to be adjusted due to a sharp rise in COVID cases. 

The football season was supposed to kick off on Jan. 8.

Volleyball (Dec. 29), cross country (Dec. 28) and water polo (Dec. 28) were supposed to get underway in December.

“When we combine the lack of guidelines from the State of California, along with the majority of our membership being under the purple (most-restrictive) tier, it means there is a very strong chance that Season 1 sports will not start on time,” Sac-Joaquin Section Commissioner Mike Garrison stated in a memo to Stanislaus District principals and athletic directors.

Stanislaus County was moved into the “Purple” tier under the state’s color-coded coronavirus reopening system on Nov. 16.

“Starting on time is highly unlikely,” Central Valley High School Athletic Director Greg Magni said. “I’ll be prepared to adjust our schedules as needed. I’m hoping we can have athletic competitions at some point this school year.”

“I can’t foresee us doing anything until we get out of purple,” Ceres High Athletic Director John Bussard said. “The outlook isn’t good.”

“It’s a setback,” Central Valley football head coach Derrick Goblirsch said. “There is a lot of unknown. That’s part of the reason our main focus is on us rather than what’s going on around us. We’ll worry about what we can control. We’ll continue to prepare.”

“At this point I am concerned,” Central Valley senior football player Isaiah Hidalgo said. “I’m kind of worried about the season not being played because of COVID. It’s pretty disappointing. It’s not our decision. It’s up to the district, state and government.  We got to keep working hard. We’ll be ready if we get the greenlight.”

“I want there to be a season,” Ceres High junior football player Verlis Smith said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if there wasn’t. This pandemic is ridiculous now. We’re back in purple. We’re not in a good stage.”

High school sports teams throughout California are no longer permitted to use their respective schools’ weight rooms due to a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases. 

“We’re back to where we were in the beginning,” Magni said. “Conditioning is still allowed in a modified basis. Nothing allowed indoors or shared equipment. We’re following the guidelines that we’ve been using throughout this entire process.”

“It’s a step in the wrong direction,” Ceres High varsity football player Amare Padilla said. “We all know we might not have a season because things are getting worse. All of us are trying to stay positive.”

“It sucks because we were supposed to start full practices in helmets and pads in a couple weeks,” he added. 

“The weight room got taken away because of COVID,” Hidalgo said. “It’s a step back for us. It feels like March again when everything got taken away.”

“Now, everything has to be done outside,” Bussard said. “No indoor activities at all. Of course, it’s disappointing. But it is what it is. We’re not in the boat alone.”

The majority of Central Valley’s athletic programs have opted to not practice this week.

“We decided to take a break and let the kids enjoy the holiday with their families,” Goblirsch said.

“Certain sports are taking a break,” Magni added. “It’s up to each coach.”

Season 2 sports include soccer, tennis, wrestling, basketball, swimming, baseball, softball, golf and track and field.

Soccer is scheduled to begin on March 1.

Tennis (March 8), Wrestling (March 8), basketball (March 9), swimming (March 22), baseball (March 22), softball (March 22), golf (March 29) and track and field (March 29) have later projected start dates.

California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) competitions will not be allowed until Gov. Newsom and California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly provide new guidance for high school and youth sports.

“The guidelines weren’t ready to be released (on Nov. 16),” Magni said. “Until we know what those guidelines are, we’re in a wait-and-see mode. We remain hopeful there will be some kind of athletic competition this school year.”

In order to return to the red tier, Stanislaus County must have an adjusted daily case rate of less than 7 per 100,000 population and a test positivity rate of less than 8 percent for two consecutive weeks. Data are reviewed by CDPH weekly and county tier assignments are updated on Tuesdays.

Ceres Unified School District (CUSD) is working on a plan for secondary (7-12) reopening. The timing is contingent upon Stanislaus County’s ability to improve its COVID-19 status. The sooner case numbers improve, the sooner students can return to in-person learning.

Summer vacation ended for CUSD K-12 students on Aug. 12 as the 2020-21 school year got underway with distance learning due to state-imposed coronavirus restrictions.

“Secondary schools (7-12) will take longer to reopen safely, as their potential for the spread of illness is higher due to much larger student populations and intermingling of students changing classes multiple times each day,” CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel said.

“It’s a daily risk,” Padilla said. “That’s how COVID is now because it spreads so easy. You’re always going to take a chance no matter what you’re doing. I worry about getting it. I wear a mask and try to stay six feet apart.”

All public schools in Stanislaus County were closed from March 19 through the 2019-20 spring academic year to help minimize the spread of COVID-19.