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Door open for cross-country to begin after stay-at-home order is lifted

Fountain Valley's Kaho Cichon runs at Riverside City Cross-Country Course on Nov. 23, 2019.
Fountain Valley’s Kaho Cichon runs in the girls’ Division 1 CIF Southern Section Cross-Country Finals at Riverside City Cross-Country Course on Nov. 23, 2019.
(Raul Roa / Staff Photographer)

The first good news for high school sports in some time came on Monday with the announcement that the regional stay-at-home order due to the coronavirus pandemic was no longer in effect.

A consequence of that saw counties return to their respective tiers in the state’s reopening guidelines, opening the door for some high school sports to begin.

Orange County and the entire CIF Southern Section begin this new dawn in the “purple” tier, under which cross-country is the only fall sport in the section that would be allowed to compete at this time.

“I know that the State CIF and the Southern Section have been incredibly committed to providing as close to as many contests as possible for as many student-athletes as possible, just because it is such a huge role in the social and emotional education of high school students,” Huntington Beach Union High School District athletic director James Perry said.

“It’s been very obvious that the biggest and best advocates for this have been our student-athletes. They have been incredibly dedicated to the protocols. They’ve been incredibly accountable to each other because they don’t want to lose any more of what has already been lost.”

The decision now falls to local school districts, following the guidance of health officials, on when their schools can return to competition against other schools.

Huntington Beach Union High School District has plans in place for its six schools — Edison, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Marina, Ocean View and Westminster — to compete against each other if schools in leagues in which it has representation are unable to participate.

“We’ve made plans to, if we need to, our six schools will compete against each other, and if the others can figure out a way, then we’ve created some wiggle room in the schedules for them to come in,” Perry said.

“We hope they’re in. We hope their kids get a chance to participate, and we’ve got obviously a plan for that to happen with everybody back and doing what we do, but if not, we’ve got plans to take care of our six schools.”

Last week, the CIF canceled its postseason for fall sports, a decision that was made in an effort to open more time for sports that fell into the first season of the 2020-21 school year to schedule additional regular season and league contests.

The last date of competition for cross-country is now Saturday, March 27. All other impacted fall sports are in the “orange” tier, the end dates for which are as follows: eight-man football, April 3; football, April 17; water polo and girls’ volleyball, March 20.

Some leagues already have a schedule put together while awaiting approval for their schools to compete. The Orange Coast League has dual meets scheduled to take place on Wednesday of each week, beginning Feb. 17.

Costa Mesa and Estancia are part of the Orange Coast League. Both are in the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, as are Corona del Mar and Newport Harbor, which reside in the Sunset Conference.

“With the governor lifting the stay at home order, we will be following the [California Department of Public Health] guidelines, which allow for certain outdoor, low-contact sports to begin inter-team competition,” district spokeswoman Annette Franco said, adding that the district would be working with coaches and athletics staff to determine details with how and when to proceed with the resumption of athletics.

Laguna Beach is also a member of the Sunset Conference. Laguna Beach Unified School District officials said in a statement Tuesday that the high school’s cross-country team continues to work out under CDPH guidelines, and the district is looking into beginning competition.

The Garden Grove Unified School District, which includes Los Amigos, will be discussing the return of high school athletics with the leagues that it is a part of.

“As news was received yesterday from the governor about the regional stay-at-home order being lifted, the Garden Grove Unified School District will be meeting with the three leagues we belong to — Garden Grove League, Empire League and Golden West League — to discuss competition for cross-county as well as youth sports guidelines,” district spokeswoman Abby Broyles said. “We are still in the ‘purple’ tier as a county and remain in strength and conditioning in stable cohorts for all other sports.”

The CIF State office released updated guidelines for all sports on Friday, Jan. 22. For cross-country, the guidelines called for masks to be worn and social distancing to be adhered to by all at a meet when they are not in a race.

The finish line area is to be modified to allow for physical distancing, and a further suggestion asks for consideration to be given for courses to be no less than 6 feet wide at their narrowest point.

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