The Colorado High School Activities Association is moving forward with fall sports for boys golf and tennis as well as softball. The fate of cross-country, football and volleyball awaits the approval of state health officials, though it is becoming increasingly unlikely a football season will be held this fall because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
CHSAA had previously announced the boys golf season would begin as regularly scheduled Aug. 3 with competition to begin Aug. 6. Durango High School will have its first tournament Aug. 10 in Fruita. The new news Tuesday out of a CHSAA meeting with district administrators came in the approval of boys tennis and softball to being practice Aug. 10. Those are sports that have already been allowed at the recreational level by state health officials this summer.
“It’s a win. Some sports are better than none,” said Durango School District 9-R Athletic Director Ryan Knorr. “Just the idea that we can communicate to athletes to get signed up, get their physicals in, it’s reinvigorating. We will see how it pans out for football, volleyball, soccer, cross-country. Hopefully it’s just what they’re tweaking in terms of guidelines or how practice is going to look for a lot of those. But, overall, it’s great news today.”
Softball will play a 16-game regular season with a 16-team state tournament to start Oct. 10. Each league champion will qualify for the state tournament, and at-large bids will be determined by the CHSAA Seeding Index which factors in RPI, the coaches poll and MaxPreps rankings.
Softball rosters also will be limited to 12 players per team at each game to successfully accommodate social distancing mandates. Currently in Colorado, only 25 players and coaches are allowed to be on one outdoor field at a time.
Regardless of any restrictions, Wednesday’s news was warmly welcomed by Durango High School softball coach John Bernazzani. He said the 12-player roster limit is doable, as last year’s DHS varsity team carried 11 players. The only concern is if more players from sports that could still get postponed decide to join and how to accommodate extra numbers in practice if that does happen.
“We’ve been telling the girls all summer to cherish every minute they are able to be out there practicing and that, hopefully, there would be a season to play,” said Bernazzani, who has a team made up of players from not only DHS but also Animas, Bayfield, Ignacio and Silverton high schools. “The phrase of the day every day at practice, probably 10 to 15 times, is, ‘Girls, six feet.’ They’ve all been very respectful of each other, have masks on and have been great coming three days a week all summer.
“There are a lot of uncertainties of how the season is going to pan out. I’d love to see even half of it pan out.”
Boys tennis had its season reduced by 25%. Individuals must complete four matches at their position to play at regionals unless a player is granted a waiver for COVID-19 reasons.
Regionals and state for boys tennis will be played as single-elimination tournaments. The winner and runner-up of regionals will advance to state Sept. 25-26.
Other health protocols will be visible on the playing surface, too.
“Stuff like not picking up the tennis ball with your hands and throwing it back to your opponent,” Knorr said. “Players will use their foot and racquet to get it back to the other side. No high-fives, things like that.”
Durango High School is in the process of hiring a new boys tennis coach with the season quickly approaching.
As boys golf coach Kirk Rawles said Saturday, travel and overnight stays remain the biggest concern for coaches who have had fall seasons approved this week. It is an extra concern at DHS, which is geographically isolated from competition in golf, tennis and softball.
“How far we can travel, if we can stay overnight, if we are able to put groups of girls on smaller buses, we are looking at all of that,” Bernazzani said. “If those things can me worked out, it will be a little more normal. But there is the possibility of no overnight stays in hotel rooms and all of that. Again, we are happy to get out and get something done. But I’m not holding my breath on Front Range tournaments we have scheduled. We are mindful of the budget and the situation. Extra hotels and transportation are not gonna work. If we can meet some teams in the middle, we will look at all of those possibilities.”
Contact sports have been a source of concern for governors across the country. New Mexico is one of several states to already push football and soccer to the spring, and it is possible Colorado will do the same this week. Knorr did say he would be surprised if cross-country was not held with an alternate format, such as team time trials, this fall.
“If they do move football and soccer into the spring, the rest of spring sports would get pushed back,” Knorr said. “They would not be on top of spring sports. CHSAA has done a great job and been cognizant of small towns like Durango where we have a lot of multi-sport athletes. They don’t want to put kids in a position to chose one sport over another.”
CHSAA indicated the governor’s decision on the rest of fall sports could come this week.