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After almost a year away, high school sports return with hundreds of contests.

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Clackamas senior Brady Fendrich makes a move against Sunset during his team's 3-0 nonleague win at Sunset High School on March 2, the second day of high school sports competition in 2021.You could see it in their faces.

You could hear it in their shouts of encouragement.

You could almost feel the spring in their steps.

Oregon high school sports are back after an absence of 345 days forced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown measures implemented by the state.

After the 2019-20 winter season was stopped midway through the state basketball playoffs, the 2020 spring season was canceled in its entirety, athletes traveled out of state to compete during the summer, and the 2020 fall season was delayed, delayed again and then shortened, high school sports returned to Oregon's football fields, cross country courses and gymnasiums beginning March 1.

And the high school athletes who waited so long for sports' return — and wondered for months if it would happen at all — could not have been happier about it.

"We're all blessed … to have the opportunity to play," said Clackamas senior soccer player Cameron Gaines. "With so many seniors, it'd be such a shame (not to play this year). I'm really glad we got the opportunity."

"My favorite part, so far, has just been being able to see everybody else compete," said Lakeridge senior cross country runner Holly Lane. "It's just really nice to see familiar faces and getting to cheer on the new freshmen and new people on the team."

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Lakeridge juniors Cooper Wood (right) and Wilson Godfrey race during their team's season-opening meet against Tigard and Tualatin at Tualatin High School on March 3.After such a long delay to the return of high school sports — again, an absence of 11 months and seven days — what a return it was. Even the weather seemed to support the long-awaited return to play, with sunshine bathing high school fields and campuses across the Portland metropolitan area with temperatures nearing 60 degrees.

Across the state, at all levels, the first five days of high school competition included the following: 186 volleyball matches, 77 football games, 250 soccer games (boys and girls combined) and nearly 50 cross country meets including literally hundreds of boys and girls teams.

There were, however, some setbacks during the first week of competition, with a handful of events canceled in various sports due to COVID-19 outbreaks among athletes. Notable among those was the cancellation of competition for teams at Lake Oswego High School, that in reaction to a COVID-19 outbreak related to a social gathering outside of school on Thursday, Feb. 25. Some of the people at the gathering were Lake Oswego athletes who had participated in athletic practices, as well as an onsite activity, between Friday, Feb. 26, and Monday, March 1.

Despite those losses, the athletes who did get back in the gym and returned to the fields and courses in the first week of fall season sports, loved the opportunity.

"It's pretty exciting," said Clackamas senior soccer player Brady Fendrich. "It was a long way to go to play later in the season. ... But you know, it was exciting to get back on the pitch with the Clackamas boys."

"It was really great," said Lakeridge junior cross country runner Wilson Godfrey. "Especially because we put in so much work since August. It's just been a really good opportunity to get back and race with the team."


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