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Outlook for prep sports season remains cloudy

The Capital High School Jaguars will soon be gearing up for a truncated football season. (Dean Hanson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

When the “fall” sports season rolls around in a week or so, Santa Fe Public Schools’ athletes will be ready to hit the field, court and pitch.

But who are they going to play?

With a New Mexico Activities Association mandate to try to keep schedules for soccer and volleyball – the association will be putting together the football schedules – confined as much as possible to district matches, there are not a lot of opponents standing.

With district schedules largely filled by high schools within Albuquerque Public Schools, Santa Fe and Capital are looking at a virtually empty slate as interim APS superintendent Scott Elder has made it fairly clear that the massive district will not be ready for any kind of hybrid learning situation for some time.

“None of our district opponents has entered their hybrid plans or school boards haven’t approved it, which means we don’t have a district to play in,” said SFPS athletic director Larry Chavez. “We’re kind of in limbo right now.”

The district board that includes Los Lunas and Valencia high schools meets Tuesday to re-address its earlier decision to remain in virtual mode for the time being. And that comes after NMAA’s Monday deadline to declare for fall sports participation.

That still leaves the Demons and Jaguars looking to play each other, and not a whole lot else. Districts have until Monday to declare their intention to play fall sports, with full practices starting Feb. 22.

What muddies the waters even deeper is the fact that nearby 4A schools are looking at having full district participation from Los Alamos, Pojoaque Valley, Española Valley, Taos and Moriarty in volleyball. The same is true for soccer, except the Sundevils, who don’t play the sport.

There could be some wiggle room, since each school in District 2-4A will have four open dates for both soccer and volleyball. And that would be just enough to allow Capital and Santa Fe to fill out full 10-game schedules for soccer and 12 games for volleyball, with home and away series against each other.

That is, if the NMAA permits that, Chavez said.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” he said. “It depends on what happens with APS. The NMAA could change their minds and could allow us to schedule within our own little region.”

St. Michael’s Rachel Morgan, left, battles Aliya Richins of Los Alamos during a 2019 match. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

That, however, would preclude any 3A schools from the filling the gaps in their schedule, particularly St. Michael’s, as Santa Fe Prep is opting out of cross-country and volleyball, and planning to play a shortened six-game district schedule in soccer, said Blue Griffins athletic director Todd Kurth.

While the schedule roulette wheel turns, SFPS plans to continue training in five-person pods through Feb. 22, despite Santa Fe County’s emergence into yellow status.

“We met with the coaches (Thursday),” Chavez said. “We told them to be flexible. Be understanding, but be flexible.”

Even when practices begin in full, things will not look ordinary, he said.

For instance, when players are actually participating in drills, they can interact, but once they reach the sidelines, giving others a chance, they will have to continue to maintain social distancing. And masks must still be worn at all times.

“What we’re doing, we’re staying very cautious,” Chavez said. “We’re staying with pods because it’s still out-of-season practice right now. We want to eliminate the threat of virus and make sure that we’re practicing all safe protocols.”

The district does plan to run junior varsity and C-team games, as long as opponents are also prepared.

It all makes for happy coaches and athletes, Chavez said.

“They’re happy, they’re excited, they understand the direction Santa Fe Public Schools is going,” he said. “They’re great supporters of any type of direction that we’ve asked them to move toward. We’re notifying the coaching staff, students, parents and teachers involved and giving them as much information as we can.”

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