Local officials have been discussing how to best welcome the new school year, which will officially start Monday. One aspect of the upcoming academic year is the return of high school sports, which the state recently approved with stipulations.
Fall sports, including golf and cross country, were allowed to start up this month, though with restrictions and shortened seasons. Other fall sports, like soccer and volleyball, were rescheduled for the spring, as the seasons of other sports during that time were extended into June, per the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA).
Telluride athletic director Chris Murray said everything has been going smoothly so far as boys golf and cross country athletes have adapted well to the new COVID-19 rules, including health checks and smaller group sizes at practice.
“Just the way they’re kind of handling things in stride without hesitation,” he explained. “They’re just doing what they’re supposed to which is really helpful.”
Socially distancing while playing golf hasn’t necessarily been that big of change, but spectator restrictions have been a focus, as they’re not allowed to watch students until they’re about to tee off. Before, spectators, mainly parents, were allowed to watch golfers on the practice putting green and the driving range.
With limited extracurricular activities, Murray explained more students signed up for golf this season.
“Normally we’re have around nine to 13 (players). This year we actually had to cap it off at 24 kids and move them in cohorts of 12 so all of them aren’t at practice at the same time,” he said.
With a couple meets under their belts, the golf team will be in action again at the end of this month at Bookcliff Golf Course in Grand Junction.
Murray has been providing updates on tellurideathletics.com, where he gave a shoutout to sophomore golfer Emmett Murphy who sunk a hole in one during a recent practice at Ridgway’s Divide Ranch.
“Truly an awesome shot and moment for everyone who was part of it. I am grateful for all involved who helped provide the opportunity to create a lasting memory,” Murray wrote.
Cross country has experienced more significant changes, Murray explained, including limiting the number of runners during meets — 50 varsity boys and 50 varsity girls only who will run in waves of 25; no junior varsity or middle school runners. Runners must also keep their facemasks on until they start and run with it in order to put it back on after they cross the finish line, where coaches must make sure athletes stay in groups with their teammates in order to avoid mingling. Teams also aren’t allowed to socialize between races.
“It’s not as big as an event as it’s been in the past,” Murray said of Friday’s meet.
In a recent interview on chsaanow.com, the association’s assistant commissioner of cross country, Jenn Roberts-Uhlig, explained further how this season will be different, including the regional and state championship meets.
“At regionals, there will be no more than 75 total. At the state meet, it's 100 per classification, per gender,” she said. “Truly, for cross country — and really, for all of our sports — it is very important that coaches, teams and community members abide by the state guidelines to ensure safety and risk minimization for athletes, and to allow us to finish the season. That's not just for the regular season. Everyone is going to have to follow these guidelines.
This means things like wearing masks, appropriate social distancing, and not congregating in one area. The start and finish areas may look different for spectators, as well.”
Murray said practices have been different, too, mainly keeping a safe distance between runners and staggering starts. Some students, he said, have gotten creative in maintaining the sociability of the sport.
“The guidelines for practice are different as well, where some of that social aspect of running and cross country is a little limited. You can’t run with people,” he said. “They have to do their best to maintain 30 feet from each other while running in practice, and you can’t take your mask off until you start your run. We’ve just been spacing them out and giving them a good 30 seconds in between taking their masks off and going on a run.
“They’re missing a little bit of that social aspect. The other day at practice a couple of the girls who are friends got creative and put each other on speaker phone and ran with their cellphones so they could talk.”
Middle school cross country isn’t under the CHSAA umbrella, but Telluride has mirrored the association’s scheduling in planning the respective season.
Telluride’s next sport on the 2020-21 slate is basketball, which starts in early January. Officials are still considering guidelines and best practices for the upcoming year, Murray explained, but he believes how schools and communities manage the spread of the coronavirus will be a big factor.
“When you’re looking at starting in early January a lot of it is fingers-crossed, wait-and-see. If people are doing the right thing and doing what they’re supposed to the hope is that those numbers can stay in such a way where it does work for the state to have (the season) go on,” he said.
With the current protocols in place, Murray added that there haven’t been any positive tests and nobody has had to quarantine.
“We’re trying to be as cautious as we possibly can and mitigating the risk as much as possible is our No. 1 priority there,” he said.