With high school state champions for each sport around Wyoming now crowned, fall sports have officially come to a close in this COVID-19 tainted year.
The season got underway under heavy restrictions on travel, crowd size and playoff format in an effort to stave off coronavirus transmissions, and only a small number of contests around the state were cancelled or postponed due to infections.
Still, that doesn’t quite clear the way for winter sports, which are set to get underway at the end of the month.
The Wyoming High School Activities Association released its comprehensive “Smart Start” guidelines on Monday, detailing both overall restrictions for winter sports and sport-specific instructions.
The overall guidelines do not change much from the fall protocols. Face coverings are required for coaches, staff, officials and parents while inside a building for competition. Likewise, all athletes, coaches and officials must be screened prior to participation, including temperature checks with a suggested 100.4 temperature threshold suggested. Schools will develop their own plans to restrict attendance numbers, and should “consider limiting spectators to immediate family members or parents,” as was the protocol for all high school sports, aside from swimming, at Jackson Hole High School this fall.
Those restrictions, Jackson Hole High School athletic director Mike Hansen said, were considered a success as the fall season went on without any real hiccups.
“I feel like we locally did a tremendous job,” he said via email Monday. “The way we practiced and hosted events was as safe as I feel like we could make it. We had fewer cases among athletes and coaches of any school in 4A.”
A further wrinkle for Jackson to consider is the recent suspension of all activities at the school. The Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees suspended all school-led sports and activities this week as part of its decision to move to virtual education this week. If the board feels comfortable with students coming back Nov. 30 after Thanksgiving break, activities could resume then.
Nov. 30 is the first day for fall sports practices for nearly all Jackson Hole High School winter sports, which means as it stands, Jackson is planning to start the season on schedule.
Hansen said the only winter sport currently affected by the suspension is Nordic skiing, due to a required number of practices to be completed before competing. Jackson’s team will not be able to compete in its first scheduled race on Dec. 4-5 at Laramie.
“The WHSAA has not pushed back the start date for any winter sports,” Hansen said. “Locally we are not allowing activities this week, which does mean that our Nordic athletes will miss one of their seven meets.”
The first meet the Nordic team will be able to compete in, if practices begin on Nov. 30 as scheduled, is at Casper on Dec. 18-19. The alpine team’s first scheduled race is at Laramie on Jan. 8-9, the boys and girls basketball teams are scheduled to open their seasons on Dec. 10 at Lander, and the wrestling team is scheduled to open its slate Dec. 11-12 at Star Valley.
For basketball, the WHSAA guidelines say face coverings are optional during practices but not required. No more than 12 players can suit up for a game to limit bench personnel, each team should bring their own warmup balls, and each game and overtime will begin with a coin toss as opposed to a jump ball. No handshakes will be allowed.
For wrestling, face coverings are optional during practices but not required. Regular season contests will be duals only — no tournaments will be allowed in state or out of state. Teams may have multiple duals in a day but must keep teams separated to meet social distancing guidelines.
Only two teams per gym will be allowed to compete at the same time, and only one mat in the gym can be used.