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CIF State office postpones start of high school sports, cancels fall regional and state championships

Newport Harbor’s Olivia Giolas (12) tries to shoot during the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs.
Newport Harbor’s Olivia Giolas (12) tries to shoot during the semifinals of the CIF Southern Section Division 1 playoffs at Irvine’s Woollett Aquatics Center on Feb. 19. The CIF State office canceled all regional and state championships for fall sports for the upcoming season.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The CIF State office announced Tuesday that it has canceled all regional and state championships for sports that had been designated for the fall season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A revised sports calendar had necessitated that sports be regrouped into two seasons for the 2020-21 school year. The impacted sports are boys’ and girls’ cross-country, boys’ and girls’ volleyball, boys’ and girls’ water polo and football.

Such a decision was made to allow a greater number of students to potentially participate in a longer season, as opposed to an abbreviated schedule that allowed for a few schools to compete for state and regional championships.

CIF Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod called the decision to cancel state and regional championships an appropriate one that affords the individual sections flexibility.

“To have them remove those ending dates, that really does allow our sections the flexibility that we could take advantage of all the time and all the windows we have available to see if we could [provide] the maximum amount of competition and opportunity for the student-athletes,” he said.

What could also help provide more games to be played is the section’s willingness to exhaust all options, including the potential to use the playoff calendar dates to complete regular season contests that would otherwise be postponed or canceled. Wigod said that the playoffs cannot exist in their usual format without viable league play.

Using football as an example that could be applied to other sports, Wigod demonstrated how the postseason window could be used to provide more time on the playing field for all impacted athletes during a shortened season.

“Full league seasons could be played and league championships could be crowned,” Wigod said in offering a hypothetical scenario. “Students that originally would have had two football games might have six football games, or maybe seven football games. I’m sure they would rather have seven football games than two.”

Wigod said that a decision regarding what section playoffs could look like would likely come on Jan. 19.

A season of any sort is what Ocean View High School football coach Luis Nunez is hoping for, and he acknowledged that CIF is trying to accomplish just that.

“For me, just to get my seniors on the field would mean the world, and I’m sure it would mean the world to the kids,” Nunez said.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has yet to issue an update regarding youth sports guidelines because of a rise in coronavirus numbers, the statement said.

Orange County reported one death due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, as well as 1,208 new infections on Wednesday, per numbers released by the Orange County Health Care Agency.

The county has had 1,578 coronavirus deaths and 80,551 cases since the start of the pandemic.

Hospitalizations are now at 689 in the county, with 171 of those patients in intensive care units.

The healthcare agency also reported 12,851 tests for the virus, bringing the number of tests administered to 1,482,285.

At this time, the CIF said that dates to begin full practice and competition are delayed until updated guidance is provided by the CDPH. The CIF does not anticipate that the youth sports guidance will be coming from the state until at least January.

The statement added that boys’ volleyball, traditionally a spring sport, would be moved to the school year’s second season in the hope that the sport will not have to endure the loss of another full season. The arrival of the pandemic saw the cancellation of spring sports that coincided with school closures.

“I’m thankful that they’re taking into consideration giving boys’ volleyball a chance to have a complete season,” said Sam Stafford, who coaches boys’ and girls’ volleyball at Corona del Mar. “It’s impossible to tell what the numbers are going to look like come the new year into February, so I think that’s the best way that they can protect the boys, who have already lost half a season.”

Wigod indicated that the section would seek feedback from its member schools as to whether they wanted to keep boys’ volleyball in the fall season or move it to the spring season. Some of the issues that could arise in the spring include sharing facilities with boys’ and girls’ basketball and wrestling, as well as the potential for overlapping, multi-sport athletes.

Girls’ volleyball, which was scheduled to have contests begin Dec. 19, will remain in the fall season.

“My message [to the girls] … would be to take advantage of every second we get in the gym because as we saw last [school] year on March 13, it can be taken away in an instant,” Stafford added.

Regional playoffs were a relatively new phenomenon in water polo, having begun in 2018. Ethan Damato, who coaches boys’ and girls’ water polo at Laguna Beach, said that the loss of the regional playoffs was not a huge blow as the section finals present a big stage.

“I feel like right now, playing those games at [William] Woollett [Jr. Aquatics Center], playing those semifinals and those finals at Woollett are such big events, that for us, I think, in the Southern Section, that’s still been the pinnacle of the season at this point,” Damato said.

Damato added that his program remains grateful for what it has been able to do, like training for now.

Laguna Beach boys’ cross-country coach Scott Wittkop said that it took him by surprise to see CIF cancel the state cross-country championships four months in advance, but he is hopeful that an alternative will emerge. He added that he is glad the section finals, to be held at Mt. San Antonio College, remain in place.

“We’re kind of hoping that with the state meet, that some other things may come around where we can maybe even run a state meet outside of CIF,” he said. “[It could be] kind of like what they do with the national meets … because nationals is not a CIF-sanctioned thing.”

Here are the latest cumulative coronavirus case counts and COVID-19 deaths for select cities in Orange County:

  • Santa Ana: 15,609 cases; 331 deaths
  • Anaheim: 13,488 cases; 344 deaths
  • Huntington Beach: 3,437 cases; 90 deaths
  • Costa Mesa: 2,702 cases; 45 deaths
  • Irvine: 2,815 cases; 14 deaths
  • Newport Beach: 1,511 cases; 26 deaths
  • Fountain Valley: 893 cases; 21 deaths
  • Laguna Beach: 341 cases; fewer than five deaths

Here are the case counts by age group, followed by deaths:

  • 0 to 17: 6,611 cases; one death
  • 18 to 24: 11,741 cases; four deaths
  • 25 to 34: 17,065 cases; 21 deaths
  • 35 to 44: 12,795 cases; 40 deaths
  • 45 to 54: 13,066 cases; 120 deaths
  • 55 to 64: 9,786 cases; 219 deaths
  • 65 to 74: 4,960 cases; 310 deaths
  • 75 to 84: 2,560 cases; 343 deaths
  • 85 and older: 1,911 cases; 520 deaths

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Updates

6:32 p.m. Dec. 2, 2020: New information, statistics


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