Written By: Adam Watts (Forum News Service)
The Minnesota State High School League board of directors approved a reduced schedule for all winter sports and voted against providing a "culminating event" beyond section tournaments for fall sports at its meeting Thursday, Oct. 1.
A proposal failed that would have allowed an extra week of competition for fall sports beyond the section tournaments for a "Super Regional" that would have had a section champion from each section play the section champion of another section. But it lost in a 10-8 vote.
“I know the thought of not having a state tournament is frustrating, but I think the MSHSL did all they could to try to make that happen,” said Park Rapids activities director Jeremy Nordick. “It's great to know that at least our kids will be able to compete at the section tournament level. I know that was very much in question not too long ago, so to have at least section tournaments is a positive thing.”
The approved schedules for each winter sport cover nearly the standard amount of time with a 30% reduction in the number of contests. There will be no more than two contests per week allowed, except for the final two weeks of the season, in which a third contest can be added if it is a makeup for a previously postponed contest.
There will be no tournaments or invitationals allowed in any sport. There will be a maximum of two teams per event except in gymnastics and wrestling, which will allow triangulars.
The current regulations from the Minnesota Department of Health do not allow for any outside spectators to attend indoor sporting events at school facilities and limits outdoor events to 250 spectators.
Boys basketball and boys hockey will begin practices Nov. 23. Boys hockey will feature a maximum of 18 games played across a 16-week regular season. Boys basketball will feature a maximum of 18 contests in a 17-week regular season.
Boys swimming and diving, girls hockey, gymnastics and wrestling will begin practices on Nov. 30. Boys swimming and diving will feature a maximum of 11 contests in a 13-week season. Girls hockey will feature a maximum of 18 contests in a 16-week season. Gymnastics will feature a maximum of 11 contests in a 14-week season. Wrestling will feature a maximum of 16 dates with a max of 32 contests in a 14-week season.
Girls basketball practices will begin Dec. 7 and will feature a maximum of 18 contests in a 17-week season.
Waconia High School Activities Director Jill Johnson, a former board member and chair of the Return to Participation Task Force, said the approved plan also reduces the overlap in seasons, which benefits the start of spring seasons, thus, providing a full experience in these sports while minimizing exposure risks.
“Extensive work was done within the Return to Participation Task Force, which provided the board with much needed information to make a decision moving forward in our calendar year,” said Board of Directors President Blaine Novak of New York Mills. “The board decision provides a natural progression to opening up our activities in the safest manner possible, while providing the best opportunity for participation for all of our student participants.”
“The thoughtful approach of our Board in considering ways to extend opportunities and continuing to maintain their focus on the safety of all who participate in MSHSL activities and athletics is evident in their decision-making.” said League Executive Director Erich Martens.
There has been no decision in regards to a postseason for winter sports.
“My initial reaction was a lot of excitement for the kids and our winter sports coaches. All you hear is rumors going back and forth about if we will have winter sports or not. Now we know we will have it and we can move forward with getting our schedules aligned,” said Nordick. “I felt pretty good about winter sports happening. I felt that throughout the state, our fall sports seasons went well. So, I think the MSHSL board of directors decided we would be okay to push through with winter sports. Here in Park Rapids, we were able to have our varsity girls tennis, girls swimming and diving, and cross country teams make it through their seasons successfully. We are hopeful that volleyball and football will be able to do the same, leading into winter sports seasons.”
Park Rapids Sports Editor Vance Carlson and the MSHSL’s Tim Leighton also contributed to this story.