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Coaches disapppointed, but not surprised, by CIAC’s winter sports proposal

Written by corres2

Monday’s news that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference sent a proposal to its Board of Control recommending postponing indoor track due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic didn’t come as a surprise to Fitch boys’ indoor coach Rich Kosta.

The news still stung, though.

“It was very sad because I know from coaching the cross country team (in the fall) that (having a season) was very meaningful to those kids,” said Kosta, who is also a member of the CIAC’s indoor track committee. “We only ended up having four meets, but it meant the world to them. Just getting together as a group is a good thing for kids; the socialization.”

The CIAC proposed postponing cheerleading/dance and indoor track in addition to wrestling, although nothing is official yet as the Board of Control meets Thursday to vote on the proposal. Things could change.

The fate of all three sports doesn’t look promising, though. The National Federation of State High School Associations released guidance for its member schools last May and labeled competitive cheerleading/dance and wrestling as “higher risk”. Those sports require lots of contact and lots of athletes competing in one enclosed space.

Connecticut’s Department of Health classified those sports as high risk in its recommendations to the CIAC, too.

“I’d feel incredibly sad if that happens,” Montville wrestling coach Gary Wilcox said about potentially not having a season. “I think our leaders have just failed in every aspect of getting people vaccinated and getting past this.”

“I appreciate the CIAC doing everything they can to let kids participate. I honestly do. I think the CIAC has done a great job of respecting student-athletes. I just feel really bad for the parents and kids.”

Thirty-nine states have modified wrestling seasons, according to the NFHS, which includes Vermont canceling its season. Pennsylvania’s Mid-Penn Conference followed the recommendation of its state DPH to wear masks during competion. It’s been business as usual in other states, such as Indiana and Iowa.

“I’m in favor of having a wrestling season in March for those who want to wrestle, even if it’s not a long season, once everybody gets vaccinated,” Wilcox said.

The state DPH classified indoor track as moderate risk, but recommended against large, multi-school track meets through this month and February.

“Track and field is the largest winter program by a longshot in terms of participation,” said Carl Reichard, East Lyme girls’ indoor track coach and a CIAC track committee member. “If you go to an invitational meet, you might have 200 kids in the 55 meters. And that’s just one event.”

The CIAC’s proposal would allow for cheerleading/dance, indoor track and wrestling to condition and work on skills in small groups.

“You really do need to develop those skills and those specific strengths (for track and field),” Reichard said. “Those take a while to develop. It’s not just something you can jump into.”

Then there’s the matter that the state hasn’t had any high school track and field since last winter because the CIAC canceled all 2020 spring sports due to the pandemic.

“We’re pretty far behind the curve and there’s the potential for injury if you’re not prepared,” Reichard said. “I’m wondering if there’s a possibility of doing virtual meets like they did for (girls’) swimming (in the fall). We run outdoors (to train) and East Lyme and other schools run outdoors at their schools, and if we share the results, I’m hoping that there might be some sort of compromise.”

Kosta said, “If we get into late February and early March, and if the (COVID-19) metrics become good and the weather becomes good, maybe something could be done like in the fall (with cross country) with regional meets with maybe one or two teams competing against one another. But that would be dependent on a lot of factors.”

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