Newton High practices to go on as scheduled

Mark Schnabel
The Newton High School sports teams, barring any last-minute changes, will begin their practices Monday as scheduled.

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Barring any last-minute changes from the state government, state or local health department, county or city commission, the Kansas State High School Activities Association or the Newton Unified School District 373 Board of Education, Newton High School will begin its fall sports practices Monday as scheduled.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the premature end of the state high school basketball tournaments, as well as the cancellation of the entire spring sports season.

Summer conditioning was held with modifications.

Fall sports for Newton High School include football, volleyball, cross country, boys soccer, girls tennis, girls golf and gymnastics.

“We’re working on some continuations of our guidelines, because we had our summer guidelines in place,” Newton athletic director Brian Becker said. “When it comes to teams practicing and working together, a lot of those same things will stay in effect. Things like wearing a mask when you aren’t actively participating, social distancing as much as possible. We’re going to have some sports-specific items that have to do with each of our sports. We’re just making sure we’re practicing good hygiene and keeping everything as clean as possible. We’re going to forge ahead unless advised by the county health department or anybody else that would have an impact.”

The schedules for the Newton teams will be played as currently set, with the exception of the football team’s preseason jamboree with McPherson and Valley Center, which has been canceled.

While the KSHSAA didn’t ban football jamborees for this season, the governing body of high school sports in Kansas did advise against them.

Also canceled will be Newton’s Fall Sports Festival, where teams scrimmage or are introduced in front of the home fans at Fischer Field.

“We’re going to try and do some sort of virtual event,” Becker said of the Fall Fest. “It will not be the traditional Fall Fest, where we have lots and lots of people at the stadium. … We will likely not know adjustments until we get closer to the season, as far as schedules go. Every school and every county is going to have a little bit different guidance and direction based on where they’re at. We’re going to have to be very flexible this fall, especially, as well as throughout the year.”

Becker said practices for teams might have to be modified to keep the athletes in smaller groups.

“We’ve not gotten limitations as far as group sizes; however, we will be doing as much as we can in practices to have smaller groups of kids that are consistently together,” Becker said. “If you have small pods of kids, then maybe you don’t have to shut everybody down if you have an exposure or an illness.”

Another question that won’t be answered until it gets closer to the start of competition will be if spectators will be allowed at events, and under what conditions spectators will be allowed.

Becker said the Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League, of which Newton is a member, is working on guidelines, but he said those will still be somewhat localized.

“As a league, we’re working together with our health departments and look at the different guidelines and different things out there,” Becker said. “We’re trying to work towards a league-wide thing, so that expectation and policy will be the same.”

Becker said there were some possible exposures to COVID-19 by athletes during the summer weight and conditioning sessions, which caused some starts and stops.

“We had some instances where we had to work through, and with the coordination of the county health department, we needed to shut a team down,” Becker said. “We’re expecting that we may have those situations throughout the year where we may have to shut a team or groups of kids down. We may have to cancel a game because we had exposure or another school had exposure.

“Nobody can guarantee that we’re going to get through the seasons completely. Nobody can guarantee that we are even going to have state championships. Our primary purpose of having athletics and activities as we start back up and get school going again is to try and give the kids opportunities to participate and have those experiences,. Even if those experiences are different and don’t have the same feel, we want them to have those opportunities.”

MIDDLE SCHOOL — Becker said there will be delays for the Newton Chisholm Middle School teams, which joined the Wichita Suburban League this year. The WSL voted to delay the start of middle school sports practice until Aug. 31, with the first competitions to begin Sept. 14.

“That will likely mean some shortened seasons and shortened schedules,” Becker said. “Part of that is because most of the schools are starting so late in the fall. A lot of us would have started this week. There are a lot of schools starting Sept. 8 or 9, that period in there.”