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Prep cross country added to fall sports schedule, while all other sports delayed drastically in CHSAA calendar

Football will be a spring sport in 2020-21

DENVER, CO – DECEMBER 7, 2019: Broomfield’s Trent Finnegan turns up field against Pine Creek. Broomfield High School loses to Pine Creek in the 4A State Championship football game at Empower Field in Denver on December 7, 2019. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage on across the United States, the Colorado High School Activities Association released a final athletic schedule for the 2020-21 school Tuesday afternoon, effectively ending months of speculation surrounding the fate of high school sports in the state.

In a release posted to CHSAANow.com, CHSAA broke the field into four groups, with most sports not getting the go ahead until after the new year — including football, which won’t start until late February.

Separated into A, B, C and D groups, only cross country was added to Group A with an August start date. It joins previously OK’d fall sports in boys golf, softball, and boys tennis, which will all conclude its seasons by Oct. 17.

As for the rest of the high school-sanctioned sports field, their start date is scheduled for early 2021. The next group, Group B, won’t begin until Jan. 4.

“I’m happy our student-athletes are going to get an opportunity to play at some level whether that be now or after the new year,” St. Vrain Valley School District athletic director Chase McBride said. “We’re going to do our best for students and their coaches in the safest environment possible, and we’ll be ready to go when their sport starts.”

Per CHSAA’s modified calendar, cross country will begin practice under current state health guidelines and social distancing protocol Aug. 12 with competition starting three days later.

Niwot cross country coach Kelly Christensen said he’s taking the news with a grain of salt.

“It gives hope,” he said. “I’m just kind of curious what it’s going to look like, what restrictions are in place, and just knowing it could be taken away any day. So, I’m kind of treading lightly on getting too excited.”

Elsewhere in Group A, boys golf began practice Aug. 3 with competition starting Thursday. Softball and boys tennis are set to begin next week.

Group B will start Jan. 4. It includes basketball, ice hockey, skiing, spirit, girls swimming and wrestling.

Group C’s field will follow March 1, with the exception of football, which will start practice Feb. 22. The group’s other sports include field hockey, gymnastics, boys soccer, unified bowling and girls volleyball.

“You know, I’m just happy we’re going to have the opportunity (to play),” said Broomfield football coach Blair Hubbard, whose team reached the 4A state final a year ago. “Hopefully, things settle down with COVID through that time to when we get the opportunity. Just to completely shut things down and not give our seniors an opportunity to have a senior year would have been devastating. We’ll just move forward, hopeful that it’ll happen in the spring.”

Added Erie football coach Chad Cooper: “We’re disappointed with that being so close to the August 10 that we’re unable to play, especially since we’ve been able to go after it the last six weeks. We’ve really been ramping it up the last few weeks. … But knowing that there’s a postponement date, trying to pivot is a good word I like to say. Look towards that new date and trying to get the guys refocused.”

Prior to the coronavirus outbreak in Colorado, field hockey, unified bowling, football, gymnastics, boys soccer, girls volleyball and spirit are fall sports.

Over the last two months, those sports were allowed to practice under social distancing and state health parameters in most parts of the state. Ongoing conditioning could continue for those sports if approved at the state and district level.

“What I’m going to advocate with our district is that we’re allowed to continue to do the workouts that we were able to start in the middle of June, with obviously social distancing and masks,” Hubbard said. “More than anything right now for the mental health and social aspect for our athletes, it’s probably more important now than even it was back in June because of the loss of the start of the season.”

The final group — Group D — is slated for an April 26 start with championships completed mid-to-late June. Those sports consist of baseball, girls golf, lacrosse, girls soccer, boys swimming, girls tennis, track and field, and boys volleyball.

For all sports, CHSAA assistant commissioner Bert Borgmann said regular seasons and postseason will be shortened to some degree. Football, for instance, will consist of seven regular season games. Fellow assistant commissioner Adam Bright, meanwhile, said football’s playoff field will have eight in each classification.

“They had to protect the multi-sport athlete in my opinion, that was a necessity,” Cooper said. “Everyone is making sacrifices to get the season in.”

The constructed plan was finally announced 4 1/2  months after high school sports were shut down, following a long-awaited approval by the state’s COVID response team.

Met with pressure from coaches, parents and athletes, the association said it collaborated for months on a return plan with its board of directors, staff, as well as Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, the CHSAA Resocialization Task Force, the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.

“The health and safety of our student participants, coaches, officials and essential personnel, including volunteers is a primary concern for the return of interscholastic athletics and activities,” CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green told CHSAANow. “We are very grateful for the state, health and educational leaders for their shared commitment of a return to these highly beneficial education programs when it is deemed safe for all school communities.”

CHSAA said specific sport requirements — including safety measures, roster size, game modifications, practice procedures, among other things — will be communicated by Thursday.