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NMAA plans state volleyball and cross country, with or without APS

The leader of the organization that oversees high school athletics in New Mexico has made one thing abundantly clear:

As long as high school sports can safely be played this fall, they will proceed as planned — with or without the participation of New Mexico’s largest district.

New Mexico Activities Association executive director Sally Marquez said the NMAA plans (and hopes) to have championship seasons this fall in cross country and volleyball, even if Albuquerque Public Schools — which hasn’t yet declared its fall intentions for its 13 high schools — opts out.

“That’s 13 high schools,” Marquez said of APS. “We’re gonna service the other 152 (high schools) in our sports and activities.”

APS last week decided to remain in a remote learning situation through the end of the calendar year. APS is one of the largest districts in the country; it is still hashing things out regarding its plans.

“That door is not closed,” APS Superintendent Scott Elder told the Journal on Wednesday.

The NMAA is giving individual schools/districts until Monday, Sept. 21, to let them know whether they intend to compete this fall. The first day of practices for volleyball and cross country — and fall golf — is Monday, Oct. 5.

APS athletic director Kenny Barreras said, “our next point of reference is what the updates are to the governor’s health orders, and we take it from there. That’s what we’ve done throughout the summertime.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has a news conference scheduled Thursday.

Corona and New Mexico School for the Deaf in Santa Fe are opting out of volleyball this school year, according to the NMAA. Vaughn and NMSD will not play football.

Menaul, Jal and Loving are among the known schools that are adding cross country this fall, as there will be no football until the spring. Victory Christian in Albuquerque and Desert Academy in Santa Fe have closed, Marquez said.

APS, meanwhile, has much to consider before it renders its own decision, said Elder, who is also a member of the NMAA board of directors.

“I think we have to see the schedule,” he said. “Also, how are you going to transport kids? How are teams going to be managed, in the case of volleyball, in the gym? It’s the exact same thing everyone else is dealing with. It’s just we have more of them.”

Elder said he wasn’t sure when APS would announce.

“We recognize the value of athletics, and its impact on the emotional health of our students,” Elder said. “And if there is a way we can provide a safe environment for those games to occur, we’ll do it.”

Elder added that APS may be more restrictive than the NMAA’s expected guidelines, “but we’ll follow them closely,” he said. “It’s about safety. There are so many things we have to deal with.”

The NMAA is planning to conduct state events in volleyball and cross country regardless. In volleyball, there are 28 schools in Class 5A that play volleyball, including 10 of the 13 in APS.

Games, meets and tournaments cannot begin any sooner than Saturday, Oct. 10. The state tournaments in cross country and volleyball are scheduled for December.

Golf will stage some prep tournaments this fall, but its state tournaments aren’t scheduled until June.

The remaining sports begin in 2021, with a unique prep calendar that will end on June 26, if all goes as planned, and that’s the mother of all unknowns.

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