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Crook County High School will have short seasons and play a regional schedule

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Tennis is one of the four spring sports that will see some competition this fall, during the OSAA Season No. 1, along with golf, baseball, softball and track & field.

High school athletics are back.

It's not a normal season, but after not having a spring season during the 2019-2020 school year, Crook County High School athletic teams are back in competition beginning Thursday when the boys and girls tennis teams host Ridgeview in a 4 p.m. contest.

"As many differences as we are having to endure with athletes and masks and social distancing and abbreviated competition schedules and a small number of schools to participate against, even despite all of that, I'm more excited for this abbreviated season than any I can remember," CCHS athletic director Rob Bonner said. "Just having the coaches willing to do this, having our community willing to push forward and do what a lot of communities are not doing and having a school board and district office that stands behind the parents, the families and the athletes, it's a wonderful feeling."

Although there will be competition this fall, that doesn't mean that things are going to be normal. There are a number of differences between the 2020-2021 year and past athletic seasons.

To begin with, competition is starting with spring sports instead of fall, with tennis, softball, baseball, track and field, and golf competing. Secondly, the competitive season will be just three weeks.

An abbreviated fall athletic season will begin the week of Oct. 10, also with just three weeks of competition. Winter sports will take the court in mid-November, and the OSAA-sponsored seasons will not actually begin until Dec. 28.

Expect to see several other changes during what officially is the OSAA season 1. Teams will be wearing masks. There may be exceptions, for example tennis players who are more than six feet apart may be allowed to compete without masks, but there will be masks in both the softball and baseball dugouts, and expect to see batters, umpires and catchers with masks. Any time that players or coaches are unable to stay at least six feet apart, there are going to be masks.

In addition, there will be new rules for spectators. Masks and social distancing are going to be required in most sports. In other sports, spectators may not even be allowed.

The Oregon Health Authority and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown have restricted outdoor gatherings to a maximum of 250 people. That means that with multiple schools competing in a track and field competition, spectators may not be allowed, or at the very least the number of spectators will be severely limited.

"The rules will be masks and social distancing, and there will be signage," Bonner said.

He added that the rules for spectators are still being developed and could include health screenings and temperature checks among other possible safety measures.

Competition will currently involve just five schools. The Cowboys and Cowgirls will compete along with Redmond, Ridgeview, Sisters and Culver.

"Now we all just need to stay patient and work together to help make this a success," Bonner said. "Whatever we have to do in order to give kids the opportunity to compete. I'm confident that we can do that with community support."

Bonner added that coaches are volunteering their time for OSAA season 1 and that it is entirely up to the athletes and their parents whether individuals participate or not.

"The coaches are doing this because they want to give their athletes an experience," he said. "It shines a light on just how special coaches are. We have a great coaching staff, and I'm really proud of them."

One other major change is that the school district is not going to be providing transportation to away competitions.

"One of the biggest differences is that we are going to have a transportation waiver because the district is not transporting athletes," Bonner said. "So, it's going to be up to the family and the athlete."

Bonner noted that he is sure that there may be some people in the community who think that it is too soon to resume competition.

"I haven't heard from them, but I'm sure that there is a certain segment of the population who think this is irresponsible, so I want to make sure that we move ahead cautiously and are safe in what we are doing," he said.

With students still not having face-to-face learning, the number of athletes currently out for sports is down from historic norms. Bonner said that there are several reasons numbers are down, but that one of the largest is that with online learning, students who might otherwise have quit summer jobs are still working. As a result, many of Crook County's teams are currently dominated by underclassmen.

Complete schedules for the spring sports season will be in the Central Oregonian as soon as they become available.

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