CHEYENNE – The Wyoming High School Activities Association gave the OK Tuesday afternoon for fall sports to start as scheduled.
Golf, tennis and Class 4A football will start practice Aug. 10. Girls swimming and diving, volleyball, cross-country and Class 3A-1A and six-man football will start practice Aug. 17.
The move was made with approval of and under guidance from the Wyoming Department of Health and Wyoming Department of Education.
“We appreciated the WDH and WDE working with us to be able to approve a plan we all believe can safely return our students to their sport,” WHSAA commissioner Ron Laird said in a news release. “This is a great example of how working together will allow our students to continue to enhance their educational experience.
“We know the mental and emotional issues those students experienced last spring when track and soccer were canceled.”
A WHSAA-sanctioned event was last held March 12. The COVID-19 pandemic forced the group to cancel its Class 4A and 3A state basketball tournaments after just one game. It also forced the cancellation of all remaining activities and athletic competitions for the remainder of the 2019-20 academic year.
Guidelines the WHSAA laid out for returning to competition include sanitation and safety protocols such as extending the team areas on football fields to the 10-yard lines instead of the 30s, limiting the sharing of equipment, and encouraging face coverings.
Regular season meets for golf and cross-country will be limited to just four teams. Regular season swimming and diving competitions should be limited to three teams, and no more than 80 participants.
Volleyball and tennis will not have any multi-match regular season tournaments. Instead, teams can play matches against more than one team in a given day provided appropriate time for cleaning is given between matches.
For the first time since 2008, the state football championships will not be played at War Memorial Stadium on the campus of the University of Wyoming. Instead, the higher seed in each bracket will host the championship as it had previously.
The state volleyball tournament will be a one-day single-elimination tournament for each classification instead of a three-day event that allowed teams with one loss to compete for third place. The state cross-country meets also will be contested at separate sites based on classification. Previously, all three classes competed at the same location with six races being run in one day.
The state tennis tournament will utilize four additional courts than normal to promote physical distancing. Three outdoor courts will be used during the final day, in addition to the indoor courts that typically host the placement matches.
Physical distancing and reducing the total number of competitors at each event will be a priority for the WHSAA board of directors. The group also is considering adjustments to culminating events to reduce numbers as well.
It is important to allow students to safely participate in athletics, Wyoming superintendent of public instruction Jillian Balow said in a news release.
“Activities are essential to the physical, emotional and social wellbeing of our children and fundamental to our mission in K-12 education of building character and necessary skills in our youth,” she said.
Laird emphasized that Tuesday’s announcement was merely the first step in the process of returning to competition.
“This is going to take a concerted effort by all involved,” he said. “The focus is on providing the opportunity for the kids. I have complete confidence that our administrators, coaches, parents and fans will join forces and follow the guidelines to benefit our students.
“With the ever-changing conditions that exist during the COVID-19 pandemic, we know we are going to have to be flexible and ready to adjust. We believe we have those plans in place for each sport.”