Winter sports pushed back

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EAST LANSING — The Representative Council of the Michigan High School Athletic Association approved an adjusted schedule to restart and conclude fall tournaments in football, girls volleyball and girls swimming & diving, and also to resume winter sports after the three-week “pause” in activity ordered by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services scheduled to end Dec. 9.
The MDHHS announced Nov. 15 a three-week pause to various activities including school sports, effective Nov. 18, in hopes of halting the state’s rising infections due to COVID-19.
Locally, both Forest Park and West Iron County have completed their fall seasons. Girls basketball practice began on Nov. 9 before being postponed. Boys basketball practice was scheduled to start on Nov. 16, but never got underway.
Both schools’ girls basketball schedules were to begin in the opening days of December, but those games have also been postponed at this time. No decision on whether those games will be rescheduled has been announced.
Boys basketball games were scheduled to begin the first full week of December.
Statewide, the volleyball and swimming & diving tournaments have one week remaining, with MHSAA finals for both previously scheduled for Nov. 21. The 11 and 8-player football playoffs also are nearing their conclusions, with the 8-player postseason two games from completion and 11-player down to its final three rounds.
If allowed by the MDHHS, practice would resume for all three fall sports Dec. 9, with tournaments scheduled as follows:
• Football: 11-player regional finals and 8-player semifinals would be played Tuesday, Dec. 15, and Wednesday Dec. 16; 11-player semifinals and 8-player finals would be played Dec. 21-22, the 8-player championship games at Midland Community Stadium; 11-player finals will be played Monday, Dec. 28, and Tuesday Dec. 29 at Ford Field.
•    Volleyball: Quarterfinals in all four divisions would be played Tuesday, Dec. 15, with semifinals played Dec. 17-18 and finals on Saturday, Dec. 19. Those final two rounds would be played at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena, as previously scheduled.
•    Swimming & Diving: All three Lower Peninsula finals would be conducted Tuesday, Dec. 22 (diving) and Wednesday, Dec. 23 (swimming) with three high schools each hosting one meet. This allows for a two-week practice window for all participating swimmers who previously met and entered qualification times, and for divers who previously qualified at regional meets.
For winter sports, the council approved resuming practices on Dec. 9 if allowed by the MDHHS, with competition to begin Jan. 4.
“We understand where COVID numbers were trending, and that’s why we have been supportive of the order to pause,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “But these fall sports deserve closure, and this strategy provides the best opportunities without further interruptions to a normal course of training and competition.
“A very small percentage of our teams remain active in our fall tournaments, also limiting potential exposure to the virus across the state. Meanwhile, by waiting until January to begin winter competition, the council is allowing our teams to continue activity but also restricting the mixing of communities to further promote reducing COVID spread.”
The council will convene again Dec. 4 for its annual fall meeting, and at that time will consider possible tournament adjustments necessary due to the shortened winter competition season.