By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
High school sports resume with conditioning, practice
Nimrat Chahal
Central Valley High School assistant girls tennis coach Nimrat Chahal shows Hawk sophomore Alondra Robles how to grip and swing a racket at Thursday’s practice. - photo by Dale Butler

Student-athletes that plan on participating in high school sports in Stanislaus County this year were given the greenlight to begin conditioning activities this past week.

The following five sports were allowed to start practicing: cross country, golf, swimming, tennis and track and field.

Athletic directors, coaches and student-athletes welcomed the return of high school sports.

The 2020-21 season had been on hold due to safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 spring sports season was canceled on April 1 when school districts extended campus closures through the end of the 2019-20 academic year to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“This is what we’ve all been waiting for,” Central Valley athletic director Greg Magni said. “It’s what our kids need.”

“Obviously, it’s a step in the right direction,” Ceres High athletic director John Bussard said. “The kids are excited to be out there. It’s an opportunity for them to compete and get back to some normalcy.”

On Thursday, members of Ceres High School’s girls tennis team practiced at 2:30 p.m. under head coach Michelle Casey’s guidance.

Junior Verlis Smith and other Bulldog student-athletes cycled through workout drills on a field next to the tennis court complex. 

“It was good to be out there again,” said Smith, a member of Ceres High’s football, basketball and volleyball teams. “The most enjoyable part was doing all the exercises. My mindset is to get me ready for whatever sport I get to play this year.”

Members of Ceres High’s cross country program met at Bulldog Stadium before going for a run around town.

Across town, Central Valley High School girls tennis coach Mike Rodriguez addressed his team prior to practicing at 3 p.m.

“It’s very important we follow the (COVID) safety protocols,” he said.

Hawk cheerleaders conditioned outside the school’s large gymnasium.

Guidelines released by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) on Dec. 14 included a breakdown of youth and high school sports allowed according to the state’s color-tiered reopening plan.

Only low-contact, outdoor sports such as cross country, golf, swim, tennis and track and field are currently being permitted as regional stay-at-home orders for the San Joaquin Valley, Southern California and the Bay Area were lifted by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Jan. 25.

Counties promoted to the less-restrictive red tier may begin outdoor moderate-contact sports like baseball, softball and cheerleading. Outdoor high-contact sports such as football, soccer and water polo along with indoor low-contact sports like volleyball fall under the orange tier. Indoor moderate- and high-contact sports — basketball, wrestling, martial arts — are in the yellow tier.  

Under CDPH’s current guidelines, high-contact sports like football and basketball appear to be long shots to take place this academic school year.

The CIF has been lobbying for CDPH to relax its guidelines and allow all sports in the purple and red tiers.

The Sac-Joaquin Section, the governing body of public and private high school athletics in parts of Northern San Joaquin Valley, is following guidelines released by California Department of Public Health.

“We’re hoping to start competition for purple-tier sports the week of Feb. 22,” Magni said. 

Coronavirus safety measures will be followed during practice and competition.

Following direction from CDPH, the California Interscholastic Federation released an update to its guidelines for competition on Jan. 22.

Masks will be worn by athletes in the following sports: badminton, baseball, basketball, competitive cheer, field hockey, football, golf, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis, volleyball and wrestling.

Sports not required to wear masks are cross country, track and field, swimming and water polo.

“Our school district has been purchasing stuff to make sure we’re compliant with guidelines set forth by CDPH,” Bussard said.

“The health and safety of our students is the No. 1 priority,” Magni said. “The coaches will be held to a higher standard.”

Yesenia Mendoza
Junior Yesenia Mendoza cleans her racket with a sanitizer wipe during the Ceres High School girls tennis team’s practice on Thursday. Mendoza and her Bulldog teammates also wore masks and practiced social distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. - photo by DALE BUTLER/ Courier file photo