OSWEGO — Fulton athletic director Christopher Ells took a phone call between another full slate of meetings Monday afternoon, stopping to express how happy he was to hear sneakers squeaking in the G. Ray Bodley High School gym.
Fulton is among the eight Oswego County school districts that all plan to participate in approved high-risk winter sports over the next six weeks. Those seasons include basketball, volleyball, ice hockey and competitive cheer, varying in each district.
Oswego High School voted to approve its high-risk varsity athletic offerings at a virtual Board of Education meeting that lasted nearly three hours Tuesday night to join Fulton, Mexico, Pulaski, Central Square, Altmar-Parish-Williamstown, Phoenix and Sandy Creek.
“I feel like the anticipation and the waiting has finally come to a head, they’re looking forward to getting out there and competing and being with their friends,” said Pulaski athletic director, Jim Karcz. “I think the coaches are excited, too, to be able to rekindle those relationships and compete. It’s going to be fun.”
Several area teams opened varsity practices Monday and will begin games as early as next week for condensed seasons in the recently approved sports offered in each district.
The Oswego County Department of Health also released guidelines for the upcoming season Monday after previously authorizing districts the option to participate on Jan. 26, less than a week after the state lifted its ban on scholastic sports considered to be at high risk for spreading the coronavirus.
Wrestling is also categorized as high risk but was shifted to the spring season within the past week by multiple leagues in Section 3, including those that feature most county teams.
While Fulton, Pulaski, Central Square, and Phoenix started practices on Monday, several school districts within the county entered the week working through the decision or preparing plans to begin imminently.
Oswego High School approved the start of high-risk varsity sports by a consensus 7-0 vote during Tuesday night’s board meeting, though it was not made clear when practices will begin.
Mexico gained final approval by its Board of Education on Monday night and conducted team meetings with plans to begin practice Tuesday.
Sandy Creek started practices for its varsity basketball, cheer and volleyball teams on Tuesday. Comets’ athletic director, Mike Stevens, said that no games have been scheduled due to the complexities of county guidelines as a Frontier League school located in Oswego County. He was hopeful of scheduling games against nearby teams from each area.
The school website for Altmar-Parish-Williamstown posted a letter from district administrators stating intentions to participate but the start date for practices was not clear.
AREA SEASON OUTLOOK
Games are set to begin for some area basketball teams as early as Feb. 12 for a condensed schedule that is slated to end by March 12.
Area varsity boys and girls basketball squads can anticipate roughly 10-12 games against mostly regional opponents. Ice hockey and competitive cheer schedules were still being worked out to begin the week.
“Things change, schedules change, and we can adapt and try to do the best we can do to get a semblance of a season together for the kids, because that’s what it’s about,” said Mexico athletic director, Andrew Gates. “It’s about the student-athletes and providing them opportunities. In the last year, they have lost a lot, so we’re excited.”
Oswego County wrestling teams, meanwhile, appear poised to compete in the spring. The Onondaga High School League became the latest Section 3 league to postpone the wrestling season on Monday, joining the Salt City Athletic Conference.
Area teams aligned with the OHSL are Phoenix, Mexico, Pulaski, and APW, while Oswego County teams in the SCAC include Oswego, Fulton, and Central Square.
Sandy Creek competes in the Frontier League but has yet to begin wrestling practice based on a recommendation from the Oswego County Department of Health.
The Comets are also the only county team planning to play winter volleyball, though schedule details are to be determined. The other Oswego County districts that would traditionally play in the fall plan to conduct volleyball in the Fall II season set to begin in March.
COUNTY HEALTH GUIDELINES
All games in the county will be played without spectators in attendance until further notice, as authorized by the Oswego County Health Department, but all area schools are working to live-stream events.
Here are the full guidelines released Monday by the Oswego County Health Department.
1: Sports activities will be placed on pause if the seven-day rolling average of test positivity is more than eight percent in the CNY region as found on https://forward.ny.gov/early-warning-monitoring-dashboard.
2: The County Health Department reserves the right to pause all higher risk sports should Oswego County experience a spike in infection rates.
3: School districts and youth sports leagues must follow the state “Interim Guidance for Sports and Recreation during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency” posted at https://www.governor.ny.gov/sites/governor.ny.gov/files/atoms/files/SportsAndRecreationMasterGuidance.pdf.
4: School districts and recreational leagues must submit plans to the County Health Department at email@example.com.
5: Spectators, including family members, fans, and volunteers not required for the event operation, are prohibited from attending events at this time. However, schools and leagues should include spectators when they develop their plans, as this decision may change in the future.
6: Car-pooling and overnight travel are discouraged.
7: New York State social distancing and other guidelines should be followed.
8: Each school’s medical director must approve the district or school’s participation in higher-risk sports. The Health Department recommends that the school board of education or board of directors also approve the district or league’s participation in each specific sport.
9: Travel to and from interstate competitions is prohibited.