Some Long Beach High School student-athletes are back in action.
Low- and moderate-risk winter sports got off the ground this month despite rising Covid-19 numbers. Bowling, gymnastics, track and field, fencing, swimming/diving and air rifle began practice throughout New York State on Jan. 4. High-risk winter sports such as basketball, wrestling, hockey and competitive cheerleading remain on hold and are subject to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approval or disapproval.
Long Beach is competing in each of the sports being offered this winter and planning to host some gymnastics and swim meets — without spectators — according to Athletic Director Arnie Epstein.
Gymnastics coach Jessica Baker is carrying 14 on the roster and said the schedule features a combination of virtual and in-person meets. “Practice is running very smooth,” she said. “The kids constantly sanitize their hands and feet and they’re using their own chalk buckets. They can take off their masks during routines but otherwise everyone has one on.”
Senior Allison Cohen is a sixth-year member of the gymnastics team who competes in all four events — bars, beam, floor exercise and vault. “Overall, things have been good,” she said. “The majority of last year’s team is back. We can’t give hi-fives or congratulate each other like we used to, but we’re trying to make the most of it.”
The Marines are expected to host Valley Stream on Feb. 3 and Garden City on Feb. 6.
Long Beach boys’ swimming coach John Skudin said he’ll miss the thundering noise of the crowd during meets. “Our parents are great and we get a lot of the student body cheering on their friends,” he said. “You can feel the energy and that’s something we’ll miss. This season we have to feed off our own energy and do so spaced six feet apart.”
Nassau’s track and field schedules had to be revamped after the county was notified by St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington it would be unable to host meets inside its fieldhouse. Instead, Section VIII, the governing body for Nassau high school athletics, moved to Plan B, which calls for outdoor meets at high schools. At the very least, the first few weeks will be strictly virtual.
“We’re coming off our best winter season,” said Long Beach girls’ track and field coach Megan Grahlfs, who has a roster of 25. “The kids are making the best of a tough situation. They’re happy to be participating and being with their friends.”
Long Beach is planning to hold one in-person meet, Jan. 30 against the Valley Stream schools. For virtual track meets, teams will perform at their home sites with one official present. Times for running events and measurements for distance events will be input into a countywide database. Masks will be required of all coaches and athletes at all times.
On hold indefinitely are basketball, wrestling, cheerleading and hockey, the four winter sports deemed “high risk.” After bumping the potential start date three times, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association said it will not put another target date on those sports to begin. It will await further guidance from the Governor’s office. “At this time there is no definitive timeline for authorization of high-risk sports to resume competition,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas tweeted Jan. 6.
Long Beach boys’ basketball head coach Scott Martin has been conducting a skills camp since December and following the Governor’s daily briefings closely. “Every day that goes by, it gets less and less likely we’ll have a season,” Martin said. “We just have to wait for state guidance and hope for the best.”