Winter Sports Commence after Months of Uncertainty

Holly Williams, Staff Writer

IHSA announced on Jan. 27 the fate of winter and spring sports. With eight state series cancellations and new restrictions based on the tier or phase of the region, students, athletes and coaches wondered what this abridged season would look like.

“At first I was more relieved than anything to know that we were going to at least have somewhat of a track season, especially for the seniors that are done running after high school,” said junior Ryan Luitjohan, who competes in track and field, which IHSA deems a low risk sport. 

The risk classification determines the restrictions for games and practices for many sports, but IHSA still canceled the state series for low risk sports like swimming and diving, bowling and soccer. 

Knowing that there will be no chance to compete at the state series to earn a rank, some athletes feel less motivated, but Luitjohan does not believe this will happen to the track and field team. 

Luitjohan said they will treat the second most competitive meet as their end goal to keep them focused at practices week to week.

Unlike the distance runners on the track team, bowlers have been unable to practice outside of school in “athlete led” practices, but this did not stop junior James Zugmaier from practicing. 

Zugmaier said that he was fortunate to be able to bowl in the few places that remained open, but many of his teammates could not. He predicts that the practice limitations will hinder the team. 

“Morale wise I don’t think it will hurt us because many of us are excited to get out of the house and bowl again, but more practice would be ideal if we wanted to win anything.”

It is unclear whether EHS sports follow the guidelines. Many sports have seemed to bend restrictions as they have “optional” or “athlete led” practices. 

Nevertheless, with Madison county’s precarious position in Tier 2 mitigations, the announcement comes with a sense of urgency to practice for sports like basketball, which will end on March 13.

Senior and basketball player Brennan Weller said the team has been non-contact practicing every day with a limited number of players in preparation for their game against Belleville West scheduled for Feb. 6.

“All of the varsity guys are able to practice together, along with a decent amount of JV players, so we won’t have trouble correlating it to success,” Weller said.

These practices for their upcoming game may be for not if the St. Louis region does not move out of Tier 2. Being deemed a high risk sport, basketball is unable to have contact practices or competitions until the region is in Phase 4, according to the IHSA website. 

In the St. Louis region’s current tier, IHSA prohibits spectators. It isn’t until Tier 1 that 25 spectators are allowed, and the number doubles when the county enters Phase 4. As of Feb. 4, the St. Louis area is the only Illinois region in Phase 4, so if the region stays in this phase, there may be hope for a winter sports season after all.  

“A lot of different news seems to come out each day, so it’s pretty difficult to try to keep up with it all,” Weller said. “I’ve tried to stay hopeful throughout the process, and it is finally looking like we will get to play, so that is quite a relief.”