The CIAC will conduct a traditional spring season, including state championship tournaments, will be allowing indoor track dual meets and virtual competitions for cheerleading and dance, but not wrestling, the Board of Control determined during a scheduled meeting Thursday.
In an email sent out to the state athletic directors and later posted on its website, CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini said the CIAC met with representatives from the Connecticut Department of Health and Gov. Ned Lamont’s office on Feb. 11 to discuss the new COVID-19 risk guidelines set by the National Federation of High School Athletic Associations.
Lungarini said in his letter to the state athletic directors that the CIAC “is in the process of developing COVID mitigating plans for all spring sports.” Lungarini said that includes boys lacrosse.
“We plan on playing boys lacrosse with the appropriate mitigation strategies,” Lungarini said. “Right now, based on our conversations with and the position on the DPH, boys lacrosse falls into the same category (as the other spring sports). … It is something we should be able to successfully plan for.”
Boys lacrosse was the only spring sport that was listed in the high-risk category by both the DPH and the NFHS.
Gov. Lamont announced at his Thursday press conference that indoor facilities can hold up to 25 percent capacity or up to 200 people watching a youth athletic sports event. Also, interstate athletic competition can resume on March 1.
“I used to love watching my kids play hockey and basketball and I know that’s been sort of limited over the last few months,” Lamont said. “So I think we’re gonna lift that cap to some degree, still erring the side of caution.”
Thursday’s COVID positivity rate was just 2.02 percent and 2.5 percent over the past week. State hospitalizations are down to 568.
When the NFHS removed the risk categories on Feb. 2, it replaced them with five factors to be used to determine the risk of playing sports. They include: outdoor sports have shown lower rates of the spread of COVID-19 and social contact likely causes more of the sports-related spread than sports participation itself.
Lungarini said he received the updated guidance from DPH late Wednesday night. He didn’t specify what was on it, but did say any discussion had with them on Feb. 11 was based on the updated factors the NFHS now uses.
Lungarini said among the mitigating strategies that needs to be worked out in boys lacrosse likely will include how face-offs are handled. “There has to be as short of a duration of close contact as possible,” Lungarini said.
Though the DPH’s recommendations were not specified in the letter, it said the CIAC has made a number of changes to winter and spring sports based off that meeting.
Competitive cheerleading and dance will be able to begin on March 1 in a virtual competition format. Stunts, lifts, tumbling and other acrobatics can be done by individuals without wearing masks. Once completed, competitors must return to wearing masks.
Wrestling will continue to only have conditioning and non-contact skill building, but no competition.
Lungarini said consideration was given to trying to hold wrestling dual meets with mitigation strategies to include wearing a mask while competing.
“It doesn’t align with the recommendation from medical experts, specifically the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), whose recommendation does not support wearing masks in wrestling because of safety issues,” Lungarini said.
Competitive cheer and dance were part of the NFHS and DPH’s high-risk category, as was wrestling.
Indoor track dual meets can begin on March 1. Those participating in running events can wear masks. Those participating in jumping events can do so without a mask, but immediately must put it back on when finished with the jump.
Lungarini said the indoor track dual meets can be held either outdoors or indoors, as long as the mitigation strategies, like wearing masks, are followed.
“There aren’t that many facilities that can accommodate (track meets indoors). Hopefully, there will be some opportunities for kids to get some competition in,” Lungarini said.
Preseason practice for spring sports — which didn’t hold a season last year — will now begin March 27 with the first day of competition scheduled to begin on April 10.
The CIAC currently has plans to run its traditional spring postseason tournaments from June 1-13.
Right now, Lungarini sees it being a traditional state tournament format for the sports of baseball, softball, lacrosse, boys volleyball, tennis, track and golf. And with the April 10 start, teams can play their normal schedule of 20 games or whatever the sport normally allows.
The last day of the regular season is scheduled for May 27.
Lungarini said moving back the start of preseason practice from March 29 to 27 was due to the athletic directors asking for the weekend (March 27-28) to “spread out on campus, have more availability of those facilities to manage tryouts” rather than beginning on a Monday when school is in session.
“I think where we are right now is where we should be,” Lungarini said. “We certainly understand not every sport has been able to have competition and we certainly empathize with the student-athletes who didn’t have that opportunity. But we have been able to provide competition to a significant number of student-athletes when it was safe to do so. We are grateful for the collaboration with DPH and we will continue to work with them and our Sports Medicine Committee (The Sports Medicine Committee of the Connecticut State Medical Society).”
This report has been updated with new information on boys lacrosse, per CIAC, and comments from Executive Director Glenn Lungarini.