Pandemic athletics update: state championships, practices cancelled


Rowan Orlijan-Rhyne

Image courtesy of CIF, Wikimedia Commons, pixabay, and Canva

In March of 2020, life, including high school athletics, was put on indefinite hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the fall, some sports which were scheduled to begin competition in early January, or even in mid December, practiced as physically distanced, pod-fractured teams — but teams nonetheless. On Monday, Nov. 30, with the release of an LA County stay-at-home ordinance, CUSD announced that all practices would be cancelled until Dec. 20, at the earliest, for the duration of the stay-at-home order in its current state. Nonetheless, given recent press releases by the CIF-state and CIF-Southern-Section offices, it is likely that Claremont athletics programs will not return to practice until early-to-mid January, at the earliest. An announcement from the CIF-state office cancelled CIF State Championships for what is being referred to as the “fall season,” which includes sports from a combination of traditional seasons, and which was scheduled to start in January and end in late March. One notable change made by CIF to the seasons is that boys volleyball is now scheduled for the “spring” season, so as to ensure that they would not miss two years of athletics in a row if the “fall” season is cancelled in early 2021. League competition could begin in February, at the earliest, for “fall” athletics.

During the couple of months when some sports teams returned to in-person practice, the LA County policies implemented by Claremont’s athletics department functioned, but were not without some mishaps. As detailed in previous articles (Novel coronavirus infects sports: recently begun practices include novel routines, and COVID-19 sidelines CIF fall season), the structuring of practices prioritized the safety of students who chose to gather in person. The division of each team into pods of 10 allowed for contact tracing of individuals who might have been exposed to the virus outside of practices. With a known group of athletes possibly exposed to the virus, teams could quarantine a single pod without halting the entire practicing apparatus. According to athletic director Mike Collins, there were “a few instances across a few of the sports” of people close to athletes testing positive for COVID-19. However, only one athlete tested positive. In instances when athletes were exposed to the virus but tested negative, they and athletes with whom they had contact were quarantined from the team for two weeks. The teams which conducted this procedure when practices were in session were volleyball, cross-country, and football. In the case of the athlete who tested positive for COVID-19, a football player, the athlete quarantined themself from the team, but the football team was unable to ascertain exactly who had come into contact with the athlete prior to the quarantine. Moreover, the athlete had contact with a teammate while potentially contagious, and although the teammate was not aware of potential transmission from the original athlete to themself, the teammate then reported to practice. As they uncovered the situation, the football team was forced to treat the situation as though every athlete had been exposed to the virus, because they were unable to contact trace using the pod system. Thus, football practices were shut down for two weeks to ensure the safety of athletes.

However, many students were, and are, concerned that it would have been safer for athletes and the Claremont community not to have held whole-team practices at all; read more about this perspective in the article by Asiya Junisbai, Pandemic practices are blood on the hands of the CHS administration and athletic department. As with every interaction-based function or gathering, the fate of Claremont and LA County athletics rests in the hands of the local citizenry, and vaccine distributors. If the local infection rate can be lowered through mask-wearing, distancing, and vaccinations, Claremont athletics programs could have much-deserved 2021 seasons, starting in February.