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MHSA announces winter sports guidelines, updates


Last updated 11/10/2020 at 9:18am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Havre's Kylie Walker handles the ball during a Class A state tournament game last March in Billings. With fall sports about to be complete, the Montana High School Association announced more winter sports plans and guidelines late last week. Just like fall sports, there will be plenty of adjustments and changes made in the coming months due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Many thought it wasn't possible, but the Montana High School Association's fall sports season is going to make it to the end, as state volleyball tournaments are held this week, and the football playoffs have just two weeks left.

So, with a challenging fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic almost at an end, the MHSA is looking ahead to the challenges it will face for the winter sports season, which, unlike the fall, is played in all indoor venues. So, with the pandemic still raging across Montana, adjustments will be made.

Last month, the MHSA announced that the winter sports season would be delayed until Dec. 7 for practices and the week of Jan. 4 for beginning of competition. But, last Wednesday, more details for the winter sports season where laid out at an MHSA Executive Board Meeting.

At the meeting, the MHSA announced that competitions can begin Jan. 2 to give sports an extra weekend.

For basketball, all other dates will remain unchanged for now. Teams are allowed to still schedule 18 games, but must give preference to conference games. Also, like in the fall, no regular season tournaments or jamborees will be allowed. For the time being, district, divisional and state tournament locations and formats for the basketball postseason will remain, but formats and locations could change, just as it did during the volleyball postseason, where playoff formats were used, multiple gyms were used and locations were shifted due to COVID-19 issues.

Meanwhile, wrestling and swimming will see some more adjustments to the upcoming season. The major one for wrestling is, for the regular season, only individual duals will be allowed, which means schedules will be changed dramatically, and many historically big tournaments will not be held this winter. More wrestling guidelines include:

1. Regular season contests will be individual duals only. No invitational tournaments (one or two day) will be allowed in state or out of state. Teams may have more than one dual in a day (two are allowed) but must keep teams separated to meet social distancing guidelines. Only two teams per gym will be allowed to compete at the same time. Contests must be scheduled to allow for appropriate cleaning and sanitizing when the new team come to the facility.

2. No out of state competition or teams traveling from out of state for competition, unless it is in a dual format and approved by the MHSA executive director.

3. Wresting can have multi-team events (mixers) if they meet the following criteria: • These events can have no more than 40 wrestlers competing if allowed by the local county health authority • Each wrestler can only wrestle twice during these events • Wrestlers wrestling twice must wear a clean singlet for the second match. All wrestlers must wear masks while not competing. Try to schedule multi-team events at least 5-7 days apart to allow for time for students to get symptomatic if exposed.

Swimming will also have some interesting changes. Only dual and double duals will be allowed. Virtual meets, where teams swim against each other, but in their own pools, is also an idea the MHSA is willing to work with. Other regulations include mask at all times when not in the pool, teams not being allowed to leave their own staging area, and swimmers not allowed near the starting blocks until their race is up.

Of course, the major changes will also come to the wrestling and swimming postseason, which are normally All-Class State events held the second weekend in February. However, since the season won't start until January, State Wrestling and State Swimming have been moved to March 5-6. Wrestling divisional meets will be held Feb., 27. As for the All-Class State Tournament in Billings, and the State Swimming Championships in Missoula, those meets and their formats will be decided at a later date. It is however, unlikely that All-Class meets will be allowed, just as the All-Class State Volleyball Tournament which would have been this weekend in Bozeman was canceled.

The board meeting also approved continued COVID-19 protocols and that must be allowed by all schools, many of which are the same as the fall, as well as leaving fan attendance up to each local school and county health department for all regular season contests.

To see the entire list of winter sports season approvals and guidelines, visit http://www.MHSA.org. Updated Havre High schedules should be available soon.


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