Escalon athletes – if they get to take the fields and courts at all this school year – might be facing off with Manteca teams instead of Hilmar.
As the San Joaquin region has moved into the Purple Tier, there is some hope that COVID numbers will continue trending downward with the possibility of school sports on the horizon.
However, it would take a lot of maneuvering to make it so, noted Escalon High School Athletic Director Nate Bartelink. He said officials within the Trans-Valley League met on Thursday, after the state’s CIF, California Interscholastic Federation, released some guidelines for getting back to sports safely.
“Based on the current CDPH (California Department of Public Health) guidelines, the TVL as we know it cannot exist this spring,” Bartelink admitted. “Guidelines state schools can only compete with schools in the same or adjacent counties. That means Escalon, Ripon and Ripon Christian (in San Joaquin County) can’t play schools in Merced County: Livingston and Hilmar.”
While the Escalon teams could play schools in adjacent Stanislaus County – TVL member schools Hughson, Riverbank and Modesto Christian – there is still uncertainty about that being able to occur.
“There is risk to that because if one of our counties falls into a different tier, we couldn’t compete against them,” Bartelink explained.
Both San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties are in the Purple-Widespread Tier but if either county changed tiers, that would impact the sports teams.
“As a result, the schools within the TVL have decided to pursue setting up competition with schools in our own counties,” Bartelink noted. “Escalon, Ripon and Ripon Christian are in early talks with schools in the Manteca area. Once we get that figured out, we will then establish seasons of sport to attempt to map out which sports may be able to take place based on the potential movement through the tiers.”
The only thing certain is that there are no guarantees that teams will get to play, as so much depends on the COVID-19 numbers, trends and tier assignments.
“There are still several unknowns that we hope to work through in the coming weeks,” added Bartelink.
There are a handful of sports that are allowed in the Purple tier, including cross country, golf, tennis and track and field.
“Cross country is currently practicing in preparation for an upcoming season,” Bartelink said. “Boys and girls golf started practice on February 1. Tennis isn’t too far off. Track is allowed to start soon, but many of those athletes also run cross country, so we have to work through that conflict.”
Ultimately, the goal is to have school sports in some fashion – especially for those spring sport athletes who did not get to play in the 2019-2020 school year. If that was their junior year and they don’t have the opportunity to play as seniors in 2020-21, many of them will not have had the chance to compete at the varsity level for their school.
But, officials stress, safety continues to be the number one factor driving the sports decisions.