Minnesota sports on hold

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Canva Designed by Jacob Meiners

OHS winter sports have been put on hold as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Jacob Meiners, Writer

Owatonna sports have been put on hold due to the rise in COVID-19 cases in the district and state. Multiple fall sports were initially canceled at the beginning of the school year, including football and volleyball, but were eventually able to have short seasons. All fall sports were not eligible to have a state tournament of any kind, thus cutting their seasons even shorter. The initial delay of the start of fall sports also caused a delay in the start of winter sports which has since been pushed back even further.

As the district has now moved into a distance learning schedule until at least early January, the hope of winter sports beginning before the new year is dwindling. As of right now, winter sports have only been pushed back to Dec. 18.  Owatonna High School’s athletic director, Marc Achterkirch, is in charge of factoring a decision on the eventual return to sports for the school district. Achterkirch said, “It’s tricky, you know, with the Governor pushing it out to the 18th, so do you resume practices or tryouts or whatever the case might be the week of the 21st of December? Now you’re talking the week of winter break. So, it will be interesting to see what they say with that. My hope would be that we would definitely be doing something that first week of January.”

My hope would be that we would definitely be doing something that first week of January.”

— Activities Director Marc Achterkirch

Many senior captains for winter sports voiced their opinions on the matter at hand including senior girls basketball captain, Sarah Kingland. Kingland said, “I thought they would make things work for winter sports because so many kids look forward to them and I was able to play AAU through the whole summer with everything going on, so ultimately, I was disappointed. I’m hoping this won’t affect the timeline of our season and that we will still be able to get in every game we deserve!” At this point, season timelines will most definitely be altered, and likely significantly shortened as they were in the fall. Another senior is girls hockey captain, Grace Wolfe. Wolfe said, “Initially, I wasn’t surprised considering the pattern of COVID regulations, yet I was still saddened about the news. Since our season is already shortened, when we get back I think everyone will have a greater motivation to make the best out of the short time we have together.” 

This seemingly continuous pushback of sports has been taking a toll on not only the physical character of student-athletes but their mental nature, too. Achterkirch said, “Our goal is to make sure that we can get our kids back to practicing and competing as soon as possible, but we have got to make sure we can do it in the safest way possible. We need to keep our students safe, our coaches, officials, and then our community and families.”

Student-athletes have obviously taken a large toll over the past year when it comes to trying to either stay in shape for their certain sports, or just trying to have somewhat of a full season, but the coaches and staff of these teams have also taken a toll of their own. OHS Wrestling coach Adam Woitalla said, “ It is heartbreaking for the athletes and parents who have worked so hard to get to this moment. However, just like with everything in 2020, we have to roll with the punches and adapt.” 

The impact of COVID-19 has continued to combat the way we used to live. From sports, to work, to school, to just about everything in life. Our situation continues to change day in and day out, as if we can not predict anything anymore. Senior basketball captain Nolan Burmeister was asked about his opinion on the winter sports on hold. He said, “Obviously, I am not happy about it, but this year is all about ‘adapt and overcome.’ The season will be greatly affected with nobody open and no one being able to practice for a month or two.”

Obviously, I am not happy about it, but this year is all about ‘adapt and overcome.’ The season will be greatly affected with nobody open and no one being able to practice for a month or two.”

— Nolan Burmeister

Overall, the number of COVID-19 cases from high school sports teams has risen significantly over the course of the short year so far. Thus, causing this delay in winter sports for the state of Minnesota. Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcom said, “From a health service standpoint, we would really like to see sports put on pause.” Sports have been delayed until Dec. 18 at this point but could be pushed back even further as the Owatonna School District has already pushed distance learning back to early January. The high school is continuing to weigh the situation and stay on their feet as they know the student-athletes are antsy to get back to playing their specific sport, but the health and safety of the students and community is the number one priority at this moment.