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ASAA lays out plan for upcoming sports seasons, most starts still delayed until January

After decision to pause back in October, ASAA decides on tentative startup dates
File photo.
File photo.(KTUU)
Published: Nov. 11, 2020 at 10:31 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - With almost all fall sports wrapped up across Alaska, the question is now over when and how winter sports might make a return, if at all. Most will not be brought back until January 2021 at the earliest.

For the time being, Nordic skiing is the only sport expected to compete in full and to be seen through to a state championship this coming season following an Alaska School Activities Association meeting this week. The ASAA said that, aside from Nordic skiing, it’s still working out details for other winter sports.

“You hold out hope for that state event,” said ASAA Executive Director Billy Strickland. “It’s a big motivator. It’s what kids are striving for, in many cases for years. But at the same time, if you know it’s not going to happen, you want to at least be honest with that. So, we’re going to give it every chance to happen, and we believe it can, and we believe it can be done safely.”

ASAA announced the cancellation of fall state championships and most post-season games for the same season last month. Still, some sports were able to work around travel restrictions and health mandates, with certain games taking place in the same regions and against non-travel squads allowed.

In Anchorage, for example, the high school volleyball season closed last Saturday with the Cook Inlet Conference Championships, but swim and dive, as well as riflery, have one more set of local meets left, happening this coming weekend. However, particularly with it being many contact sports taking place indoors during the winter, the association has decided on several tentative and delayed return-to-play dates for certain sports.

Nordic skiing will come back on Nov. 16, with a full season and state championship at the end of February expected, according to the ASAA. Hockey and hoops, though — two of the most popular high school sports across the state — will not start up again until January. Basketball for both girls and boys will begin on Jan. 11, expected to go through March for all for school classifications, while hockey is on pause until Jan. 4, likely to have a severely shortened season with a post-season tournament in February. Other activities, such as debate, will probably end up being virtual events, Strickland said.

“If we want a state championship, everyone’s gotta be on the same page,” he said. “And we wanted to try to lessen the impact with the overlap of spring sports — soccer, softball, track and field — which really creates strain on facilities of schools.”

Bowling will see a new schedule, also starting in January, and will not have a state tournament. The ASAA board also postponed its decision entirely on the schedule for wrestling and will make a call on that at its December meeting. Strickland said a tentative plan includes a start in late March, but that the final determination is yet to be decided.

“There some decisions and debate going on, and the board wanted more time to think it through," he said, noting that an end date in early, mid- or late May was one of the many factors considered. “May is a big month in schools with graduations, and we want to make sure we’re not putting a state tournament on a weekend that lots of schools are hosting graduations.”

Ahead of the ASAA decision, the Anchorage School District had already said all winter sports except Nordic skiing would be delayed until the second semester of school at the earliest. In Anchorage, a municipal order made public on Friday that in turn took effect on Monday bars open gyms and most pickup games. Masks are also required for any indoor group activities bringing together members from different households, including both athletes and spectators at sporting events.

“We will review this decision if/when the [emergency order] is rescinded," said ASD Director of Secondary Education Martin Lang in a prepared statement this week. "Once the allowable start and end dates are established by ASAA for each sport, ASD will determine how we operate within those start and end dates.

“Most of the mandates in the new executive order are already outlined in our ASD mitigation plans,” Lang continued. "We will be reviewing them again to see if we need to make any additional adjustments for the region events this weekend.”

Anchorage’s emergency order itself says sporting events shall be limited to existing teams, and that pick-up games are not allowed unless participants are able to maintain 6-foot distancing during play.

The next ASAA meeting is in early December.

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