‘Crossing our fingers’: High school athletics resume after 2-week pause but still in precarious waters

Snow Canyon's Cole Warner drives hard to the hoop against visiting Cedar, St. George, Utah, Feb. 13, 2019 | Photo by David Larson, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — After watching from the sidelines and their homes for the past two weeks, Utah’s high school student athletes started to resume activities Tuesday after Gov. Gary Herbert lifted the ban on most extracurricular activities in his Sunday address.

Competitions sanction by the Utah High School Activities Association can resume Dec. 3, with the exception of wrestling, which can continue Dec. 11 to allow for hydration testing. Tryouts and practices restarted immediately Tuesday. Club sports were also allowed to resume after the pause, with the state asking all participants to go through a symptom and exposure screening before joining an event.

There are new requirements in place, however. Each participant — including athletes, trainers and coaches — must get tested for COVID-19 every other week. Any person who tests positive will be isolated, and contact tracing will be conducted to determine what further actions need to be taken. Enforcement of the testing requirement begins Monday, giving teams a week to have access to practice before requiring a clean COVID ticket for all participants.

“[UHSAA] will work with member schools, the Governor’s office and the State Department of Health to ensure the necessary testing resources are available to member schools to begin competition,” the organization said in a statement Sunday.

Tuesday’s activity brought an end to a two-week moratorium. As previously reported by St. George News, this only directly impacted one sport in Region 9: swimming. However, the delays it imposed on tryouts, hydration testing and practices in general made events in the week after the moratorium impossible, even before the official restart date was announced. Many of the games slated to take place before December were already canceled because of the lack of feasibility. Hurricane’s boys basketball team was scheduled to begin their season on Tuesday, but that game was rescheduled to Dec. 11 at the earliest.

Region 9 high school swimming championships, Cedar City, Utah, Jan. 25, 2020 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

At least two swim meets and four basketball games were canceled or postponed due to the pause.

Some of the region’s athletic directors even speculated that their schools would not be ready to resume competition until mid-December at the soonest, even if the moratorium was not extended. But as of now, according to MaxPreps, all Region 9 boys and girls basketball teams have games scheduled before Dec. 12 with the exception of two: Hurricane boys, which begins its season on Dec. 16, and Pine View girls, which starts on Dec. 19.

So there’s an uneasy breath of relief for Utah’s high school athletics. Players, athletic directors and coaches alike all feel how delicate the situation is, but they are looking forward to getting things back as close to normal as possible, including Dixie girls basketball head coach Ryan Forsey.

Under the previous order, Forsey said, his team had to meet virtually, with players and coaches video conferencing and performing workouts from their homes. Because of the pause, Dixie could not hold its tryouts, and as a result had up to 32 players participating in the workouts, including hopefuls who may or may not end up on the roster.

Forsey said he’s happy to have his players back in the gym and hopes it lasts.

“Definitely excited to get going,” he said. “Hoping we make it through without any more interruptions. Crossing our fingers.”

Herbert’s order requires each participant to fulfill “any quarantine or isolation period required by the COVID-19 School Manual” in order to be eligible. The manual states that any person in close contact with an individual who tests positive will be asked – but not required – to quarantine. And if the protocols are followed to the letter, a student-athlete testing positive could lead to quarantines, or at least ineligibility, for entire teams.

The logistics of testing every participant, as alluded to in UHSAA’s statement, have also not been completely sorted out. It is also unknown what other protocols, such as fan attendance, will be.

Specifics aside, as of now, winter sports are a go in Utah.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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