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MHSA revises prep winter sports calendar

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MONTANA — The Montana High School Association executive board met during a scheduled Zoom meeting last week to announce several decisions, including a delay for winter sports due to concerns related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“The delay will allow time for schools and communities to assist in flattening the curve and get through two holiday seasons before contests begin,” explained MHSA Executive Director Mark Beckman in a statement on Tuesday, Oct. 13.

The decision affects basketball, swimming and wrestling. The board approved a motion to suspend the start of the winter sports seasons until at least Jan. 4, 2021, instead of the first week in December with winter sports practices starting no earlier than Dec. 7. Basketball practices were originally scheduled to begin on Nov. 19, while wrestling and swimming were slated to begin two days later on Nov. 21. 

As Montana continues to trend upward in positive COVID-19 cases, the board approved several other measures in hopes of limiting athlete and fan exposure. The speech, debate and drama season, which had been previously postponed to December, was approved to begin its season with practices on Monday, Oct. 19. Competition will begin virtually on Dec. 1 with the possibility of having in-person meets under continued evaluation. 

The MHSA also adjusted the spectator policy for the upcoming postseason in football, soccer and volleyball. County health departments will need to approve the revised policy before it is enacted. The MHSA approved a maximum of six spectator passes per uniformed player, four for each alternate and manager, two for coaches and two for each cheerleader, and up to 12 total cheerleaders are allowed. Designated bands and student sections will not be allowed at postseason events, although students are eligible to receive spectator passes.

The MHSA All Class cross country meet will still be held at Rebecca Farms in Kalispell; however, instead of a one-day event, it will be held over two days: Friday, Oct. 23, and Saturday, Oct. 24. Class A and Class B will participate on Friday and Class C and Class AA will participate on Saturday. The requirements and considerations for the regular season will be followed, although there will be one start for each race. Each participant will be allowed two tickets for the state meet in compliance with the Flathead County Health Department.

The MHSA will re-evaluate its guidelines and restrictions during its annual November meeting and as needed throughout the winter sports season, according to Beckman. He also noted the delay to winter sports will not affect the beginning of spring sports, which were canceled completely last year.


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