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HHSAA postponement answers some questions, creates a few new ones

MIL coaches supportive of delay; facilities could be issue if sports overlap

Seabury Hall girls volleyball players celebrate a point during a match last year. Girls volleyball was among the fall sports postponed to at least January due to coronavirus concerns. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The postponement of four of the six fall sports by the Hawaii High School Athletic Association due to the coronavirus pandemic answered some questions, but several more remain as the 2020-21 school year draws closer to opening.

The announcement came Wednesday that football, cheerleading, girls volleyball and cross country — all designated by the HHSAA as high- or moderate-risk sports — are postponed until at least January 2021 after a majority vote by the HHSAA Executive Board.

Air riflery and bowling — both in the low-risk category — were allowed to proceed this fall.

“The board decided at this time that the high-risk and moderate-risk sports couldn’t go on based on how the virus climate has been in the state,” HHSAA Executive Director Chris Chun told KHON2 television on Friday. “It kind of was an easy decision and one that needed to be made at this time.”

With boys and girls soccer, basketball, wrestling, canoe paddling and swimming all usually starting in late November or early December, the HHSAA start date committee will continue to meet to determine the timelines for those sports in coordination with the postponed fall sports.

Lahainaluna High School football coach Dean Rickard said he and his staff prepared the team for the possibility that their season could be postponed. “This was back in June, July — we told them if the (COVID-19) numbers rise, it could be moved back to the spring.” — GLEN PASCUAL photo

“As to where to put the sports ultimately, it’s going to depend on where the leagues agree,” Chun said. “So when we say January, we’re looking to next year sometime, so a sport like football, it could go to the spring, it could go to February, it’s just going to go where it fits.

“We know that venue availability is going to be difficult. We know that multi-sport athletes may have to choose.”

Chun admitted that full cancellations of certain sports are possible.

“Yeah, that’s definitely a possibility,” Chun said. “As we start running out of time in the school year, it might come down to that. … We know how important athletics is to the kids. … We’re going to do everything we can to keep it and we’re working hard.”

The state has deemed football, wrestling, judo and competitive cheerleading as high risk sports.

The moderate-risk sports are basketball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, water polo, tennis, swimming relays, pole vault, high jump, long jump and canoe paddling. Volleyball, baseball, softball, tennis, pole vault, high jump and long jump all have the possibility of moving down to low risk if appropriate cleaning of equipment is done and face masks are worn by participants.

Low-risk sports are deemed to be individual running events, throwing events (shot put, discus), individual swimming, diving, golf, air riflery and bowling.

Cross country was left in a sort of middle ground, with the state saying that it could move to the low-risk category if proper guidelines can be established.

Seabury Hall girls cross country coach Bobby Grossman, who has led the Spartans to six Division II state titles, is hopeful his sport can find a way to compete in January, which could lead right into the track and field season in the spring.

“I think if they did the short cross country (season) and then we flow it into track, it might actually work that way,” Grossman said. “That way we would be going from cross country shape into (track) and there would just be that flow to it. … It’s a wait-and-see kind of thing. I just feel bad for some of the seniors.”

Seabury Hall girls volleyball coach Brian Connor said, “I support their decision — they’re evaluating so many different factors. So, if they feel that that’s the best way to move forward safely with health in mind of everyone involved, then I support it.”

Connor has kept in touch with his athletes through a series of video workouts that he sends “to the girls, just to keep volleyball fresh on their minds. I will have more of that video instruction for them. So, if it’s going to keep everyone safe and healthy, I’m all for it.”

Connor’s daughter Ella has committed to a beach volleyball scholarship at Cal Poly next year, but is sad to see what could be her final indoor season postponed.

“I wasn’t really that surprised, I had a feeling it was going to happen,” said Ella Connor, the Maui Interscholastic League Division II Player of the Year last season as a junior. “I just hope that we can get to play eventually.”

“I’m upset that it’s getting postponed, but I’d rather be safe than sorry,” she added.

One major issue that will need to be addressed is facilities, as field and gym time for practices and games could be hard to come by with fall and winter sports overlapping.

Scott Prather is the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Seabury Hall, and also serves as the MIL coordinator for boys and girls volleyball.

“The way it would look, I don’t know if anything’s been set as far as the placement of the current seasons,” Prather said. “We don’t know the sequence of sports is what I’m trying to say. If we had basketball and volleyball simultaneously, yes, it would be very difficult.”

Prather is hopeful that all of the seasons — and sports — can find their time.

“If we can find a way to give each season it’s due time and space, although in a contracted format, that would prevent the kind of over-using of the facilities,” he said. “We’re efforting those decisions, but really the safety of the sport itself is really the key question. If it’s not deemed safe, then it’s a moot point.”

Baldwin football coach Pohai Lee said that he also expected the announcement.

“With this COVID-19 deal, it doesn’t discriminate, but every day it changes, so I know they were pushing things back two weeks, two weeks,” Lee said. “I know they wanted to hold out as long as they could, but it was expected.

“I think we all want to be on the field, but at the same time, first and foremost, it’s for the safety of the kids and staff and coaches.”

Lahainaluna, the four-time defending Division II football state champion that is moving up to D-I in its next season, has three coaches who are Maui Police officers and other coaches in the older, high-risk category for COVID-19. And at least one standout player has transferred to Orem, Utah, in hopes of playing football sooner than later.

“We actually shut down as a coaching staff,” Lunas co-head coach Dean Rickard said. “We’re kind of at a different level, too. You’ve got myself, Garret (Tihada), Sonny Waiohu as coaches and we’re also police officers, so we kind of know what’s going on. We sat down with the rest of our coaches, we talked with them.

“We kind of figured that the safety and health for the students, we prepared our kids. We told them that ‘more than likely we have to think that the season is going to be moved.’ This was back in June, July — we told them if the (COVID-19) numbers rise, it could be moved back to the spring. So, yeah, it was expected. I think it was a good move, actually, to tell you the truth.”

Devon Sa-Chisolm, a second-team MIL All-Star as a wide receiver and defensive back as a junior in 2019, posted a picture of himself on Twitter in the colors of Orem High School with the caption “New beginnings.”

“There was word that he might be going up to the Mainland, stay with some family and friends up there, possibly playing in Utah,” Rickard said. “Somebody said they saw it on Twitter, so I went and looked and sure enough he’s at practice. … Think about it, you can transfer out in the fall, can they come back here and play in the spring? That would be an interesting question.

“We understand the situation and we wish him well.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com

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