Start of winter sports pushed back to January

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | October 14, 2020 1:00 AM

HELENA – The Montana High School Association decided Tuesday to move the start of winter sports for state high schools into January, with practices beginning Dec. 7.

The meeting, which took place via Zoom call, was reported on by montanasports.com. The executive board voted for the delays in practice and competition in hopes of flattening the curve in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Basketball practices had been set to start Nov. 19, with wrestling and swimming drills beginning two days later. All three sports will begin drills on Dec. 7; competitions will be delayed until the first week of January – likely meaning the week of Jan. 4-9.

Executive director Mark Beckman said the MHSA will re-evaluate its guidelines and restrictions at its annual November meeting.

The board also adjusted its spectator policy for the football, soccer and volleyball postseasons. While local health departments will need to approve the policy, the MHSA approved a maximum of six spectator passes per uniformed player, four for each alternate or manager and two passes for members of the coaching staff and cheerleader teams.

The policy for the upcoming state cross country championships at Rebecca Farm Oct. 23-24 remains unchanged: two passes per athlete. That keeps the event in compliance with the Flathead County Health Department.

Questions about the upcoming volleyball season remain unanswered, aside from Class AA, which is following the soccer and football playoff grid where higher-seeded teams host.

Possible separate state tournament sites for Classes A, B and C are still being discussed. The past several years the MHSA had an all-class tournament at MSU-Bozeman.

The State AA soccer playoffs have been condensed, with matches Tuesday and Wednesday leaving eight teams to battle it out at four sites on Saturday. The following Tuesday, Oct. 20, will be the semifinals; the state championships, originally set for Halloween, will be Oct. 24.

Speech, debate and drama season, which previously had been postponed to sometime in December, has been okayed to begin practice this coming Monday, with competition beginning Dec. 1.