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TIOGA COUNTY TEAMS PREPARING NOW FOR CONDENSED SEASONS LATER (2020-10-11)

BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
TIOGA COUNTY — There are no touchdown celebrations, nor are there any balls being kicked into the back of a net or spiked along a gym floor. The competitive portion of football, soccer and volleyball do not exist at this time. There isn't any competition occurring in the other fall sports — cross country, field hockey, golf, swimming, tennis — either.

However, you can rest assured that the competitive spirit still exists among the athletes and coaches, who are currently preparing for the day when they can resume their quests to put Ws in the books.

Across Tioga County, high school athletes are working now in an effort to be prepared for all three condensed seasons the New York State Public High School Athletic Association proposed during the summer and are based on Department of Health guidelines.

"We are doing off-season conditioning right now with COVID mandates in place," said Spencer-Van Etten athletic director Beth Ebel-Ruocco in response to emails sent to athletic directors and fall season coaches last week at Candor, Newark Valley, Owego and S-VE. "It’s a whole new world."

"All sports are participating in voluntary workouts in our weight room with our strength coach," Candor athletic director Pete Ahart said.

He noted that cross country, volleyball, football, boys and girls soccer, boys and girls basketball, and cheer "are following DOH and NYSPHSAA's returns to play guidance while practicing on campus."

"All sports are practicing in some capacity starting on Monday, with the exception of swim and golf," stated Owego athletic director Andy Buchsbaum. "All of our programs (fall, winter, spring) are starting practice next week. The last couple of weeks we’ve been doing general strength and conditioning."

"We have voluntary off-season workouts available to any students interested for volleyball, football, girls soccer, field hockey, and xc at this time," said Scott Wandell, Newark Valley athletic director. "These coaches are concentrating on conditioning and individual skill work while following all the DOH and NYSPHSAA guidelines."

Owego held Phase 1 workouts the past two weeks, splitting athletes into Red and Blue groups, alternating sessions that begin at 4 or 5:30 p.m. four days per week in the stadium.

The Indians were expecting to embark on a revamped Section IV Football Conference season that left them, Johnson City and Maine-Endwell as the only Class B teams. That has been delayed until March 1. Meanwhile, Owego is focused on preparing all the athletes for their respective seasons.

"This fall has been dedicated to getting all of our athletes back on the field and getting adjusted to school," said head football coach Steve Virkler. "As an athletic department we spent last week and this current one going through one-hour conditioning drills for modified, JV and varsity athletes.

"Starting Oct. 5 all teams will have two days a week for sport specific practices — we will continue this for six weeks. This format has allowed all teams and all athletes a chance to prepare for each season. As an athletic department we have given kids and coaches an equal opportunity and we have done it safely and followed all guidelines. I feel like we’ve done the best we can considering the circumstances — proud of all kids and coaches who have volunteered their time."

Amy White is the cheerleading coach at Candor cheerleading. She and Nancy Pierce, the S-VE cheerleading coach, combine forces to mentor the SVEC cheer squad during football season.

"We haven't started practices yet," White said. "Our football season has been pushed back to spring. We are suppose to start the end of November for the basketball season. I will see how the numbers are then and I'll see what adjustments we will have to make."

"I second what Amy said," added Pierce.

"We are currently holding practices two days a week for an hour," Newark Valley cross country coach Eric D'Arcy said. "In these practices we are doing basic conditioning. We have instituted rules that protect the kids. All of our runners wear a mask during warm-ups and during stretching. When running as long as they are socially distanced they are allowed to run without a mask.

Like so many Tioga County athletes, the NV runners are trying to adapt to the COVID-19 situation.

"Our athletes are resolved to the situation, as are we," D'Arcy said. "We are hoping to keep the kids in a positive frame of mind with the hope of a spring season."

Prior to Section IV postponing fall sports, the Interscholastic Athletic Conference, home to all the Tioga County schools except Owego, decided to postpone fall sports. Owego's league, the Southern Tier Athletic Conference, also postponed fall sports, as did the Midstate Athletic Conference and Delaware County League, both Section IV members as well.

Most of the Tioga County athletes have not competed in an interscholastic event since February. The only exceptions are the Newark Valley girls basketball team, the Owego boys and girls basketball teams, and a pair of members of Waverly's boys swimming and diving squad, all participating in the postseason in March.

Section IV voted overwhelmingly (59-10 with one abstention) to postpone sports and follow the condensed seasons plan. It is just one of four sections in New York to forego competing in fall sports. Long Island's Section VIII and Section XI, and Section IX are the others.

Obviously anxious for the return to competition, the athletes and coaching staffs around the county will continue to prepare for some sort of normalcy in their chosen sports.

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CONDENSED SEASONS PLAN
(dates are still tentative)

Season I (Winter Sports)
Dates: Jan. 4-March 13
Sports: basketball (girls & boys), bowling (girls & boys), gymnastics, ice hockey (girls & boys), indoor track & field (girls & boys), skiing (girls & boys), swimming (boys), wrestling, competitive cheer
NOTE: Due to their high-risk nature, wrestling and competitive cheer could be moved to Season II or Season III.

Season II (Fall Sports)
Dates: March 1-May 8
Sports: football, cross country (girls & boys), field hockey, soccer (girls & boys), swimming (girls), volleyball (girls & boys), unified bowling

Season III (Spring Sports)
Dates: April 19-June 12
Sports: baseball, softball, golf (girls & boys), lacrosse (girls & boys), tennis (girls & boys), outdoor track & field (girls & boys), unified basketball

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