For the first time since mid-March, Nassau County high school athletes participated in practice for their respective sports on Monday afternoon as the long-anticipated season for low- and moderate-risk winter sports got off the ground despite rising Covid-19 cases.
Public high schools all across Long Island are moving forward to compete in bowling, gymnastics, track and field and swimming/diving, with events beginning as soon as Jan. 11. High-risk winter sports such as basketball, wrestling, hockey and competitive cheerleading remain on hold and are subject to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s guidelines.
Oceanside High School is one of few in Nassau with teams in all four sports permitted to start. Most won’t have the same look or feel, with coaches and student-athletes wearing masks in most cases and the possibility of virtual meets with teams located at different sites.
“We’re hoping to get at least an hour at practice every day, but it’s going to be complicated with taking out and putting away the equipment, and sanitizing it,” said longtime Oceanside gymnastics coach Andy Morris, who said the team’s schedule calls for all road trips. “We should have at least 20 girls, including six seniors who compete in all four events.”
Nassau’s track and field schedules are in the process of being revamped after the county was notified by St. Anthony’s High School 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 is outdoor meets at local sites with lighting that are willing to host.
“The kids are excited to be training again and to have something to train for,” Sailors girls’ track and field coach Mike Howley said. “Things aren’t going to look the way they usually look, but they’ve been preparing and waiting for the season to get here.”
Junior Jada King, who runs year-round and competes in the 800- and 1500-meter races during the winter, said she’s been training with a mask on. “It’s much harder to breathe, but it’s manageable,” she said. “It’ll be tough having outdoor meets, but it’s better than nothing. We’re just excited to be together as a team.”
Oceanside boys’ swimming/diving coach John Madden said he expects to carry a roster size between 25 and 30. With practice at 5:30 a.m. Monday morning at the Friedberg JCC, Madden thought his team became the first in the county to start official preparation for the season.
Senior Mike Ormiston, a fourth-year swimmer who competes in the breaststroke, freestyle and relays, said it’ll be fun to start the morning with teammates and seeing many in the halls throughout the day. “We’re feeling pretty confident about the season,” he said.
On the state level, the date for the start of the high-risk winter sports has already been changed twice. It was moved from Nov. 16 to Nov. 30 and then to Jan. 4. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association said it will not put another potential start date on those sports and wait for authorization from the governor’s office.
“As the [COVID-19 infection] numbers continue to increase all across the state, those high-risk sports activities remain on hold until we see a decline and that’s not happening,” state budget director Robert Mujica said during the governor’s press conference on Dec. 11.
“We’re at the mercy of the governor’s guidelines,” Oceanside girls’ basketball head coach Jared Stoler said. “We’re optimistic, but also realistic. I’d like to say there will be some sort of season, but nobody knows.”