Well, the fall high school sports season is a wrap. It’s been a season like no other with changes happening each week and to different schools each week. The teams went through quarantining, some illnesses, having their opponents cancel due to COVID the night before a game or even the morning of a game. Through it all, these student athletes made the commitment to practice and try to stay safe in the pandemic. And for the most part, it has been a successful season. For that, I am thankful.
Last August, we didn’t know if there was even going to be a football, soccer, golf, volleyball, or cross country season. There was talk of cancelling everything. But the Montana High School Association, the schools and the health departments came up with plans and the practices began.
Then there was the quandary about whether there would be fans at the games. Would just home game fans be allowed, and no out of town guests; or would only so many per athlete be allowed to watch. The cry went from ‘we just want them [the students) to be able to play,’ to pleas of ‘we must be able to watch our kids and grandkids play their sports.’ Some were quite adamant about it and staged protests outside venues where they weren’t allowed inside. (None here in the Bitterroot, thankfully.)
By the end of the season, it seamed as if this problem had been somewhat solved. Most schools limited the number of fans, depending upon the size of the stands, and it seemed to me, at least here in the valley, that everyone was paying attention to social distancing and wearing their masks. This was true even in the gyms for volleyball.
Changes were made in volleyball where the teams never changed sides during a match. I kind of hope they keep this rule because then I can always be on the right side. Teams no longer shook hands after the game, just a salute to the other team. (This seemed a little strange in football, especially after the two teams had been beating the snot out of each other but they couldn’t shake hands, but oh well, at least they were playing.)
The Corvallis volleyball team came up with a unique introduction routine. Each player had their own special move from throwing a ‘pretend’ bowling ball to knock down all the players to sighting in an invisible arrow to send off to the sky. They had everyone laughing and enjoying the intros.
It was this kind of innovation that was, and is, happening to sports in this pandemic. The idea of ‘we can’t’ has been replaced by ‘how about this?’ Some of these ideas and innovations may become the new ‘normal’ for classes to come. Others will probably go by the wayside, but at least they served their purpose in the fall of 2020.
And what a fall this has been. From blistering hot August and September days, to a blizzard and a foot of snow in just a few short weeks. I don’t ever recall seeing so much snow piled up on the sidelines at Victor at a football game. At another football game in Hamilton, the snow was coming in sideways but thank goodness, I had Diane Weeks there to take some awesome photos.
Soccer went from hot to pleasant and then typical fall weather for the last few games. That is, until the playoffs, when the really cold weather hit.
The same was true of cross country. The teams didn’t have the big meets to test their mettle at. Instead, the runners competed in smaller meets and even co-ed. Coach Mark Albert knew his top female runner, Brynnli Poulson, needed to be pushed, so he had her running with and beating the boys. Innovation again. The state meet, which normally is run all in one day, was moved to a two-day event with two classifications running each day. However, this was when the arctic blast came through and runners were running in frigid conditions.
The seasons came to a close with the Hamilton football team and the Florence football team losing out in the state semi finals. Florence had been in quarantine from their last regular season football game until the first round of the playoffs. Thank goodness they had a bye week in between there to get, or keep, healthy.
The Corvallis boys soccer team played their way into post season and advanced to the semi finals before losing to Whitefish. The Stevensville girls played their way in to the playoffs but lost in the first round. Corvallis volleyball finished fourth at state and Florence made the trip to state. The normal All Class Volleyball tournament in Bozeman at the Brick Breeden Field House was cancelled and individual tournaments were held. In golf, Corvallis’ Macee Greenwood won the state championship.
Now we look towards the winter sports and wonder what will happen. We already know the seasons have been pushed back so competition will begin in January. Basketball practice begins December 7. Those who know me, know I am already wanting to be in the gym at a basketball game, and I know there are many more feeling the same way.
But, just like we did in August, we’re going to have to see what this winter season will bring and how the games will play out.
Because really, what I, and I think all of us, want, is for these high school athletes to have a chance to play. Now we just wait for the changes, innovation, and games to begin. Happy Thanksgiving, sports fans.