Championships in track and field remain possible in the CIF-Southern Section, Commissioner Rob Wigod said Monday afternoon during a Zoom news conference, also streamed on the section's YouTube channel.
Wigod came across as hopeful in stating that the process of securing venues and county health approvals, et cetera, to hold track and field championships, is ongoing. With those events on the calendar for early June, Wigod said there is at least another month before any decision would need to be made that would change the current plan of conducting championships in individual sports like track and field.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the shutdown of high school sports in March of 2020, only three weeks into last spring's track and field season. Eventually, section and state championship meets were also canceled. It wasn't until July when the CIF put out a long-range calendar in hopes the pandemic would be more under control and high school events could be held safely.
As the slow rollout of sports began in late January, what is healthy enough to conduct a high school sporting event has been subjective across the state. But this spring, as case rates diminish and more and more Californians get vaccinated, we've seen pockets where the local health departments have approved larger meets, like the one held March 20 at Moorpark, and last weekend at Simi Valley. Yet health departments in other pockets of the region remain cautious, restricting meets to duals or small invitationals with only local teams.
The Southern Section has seen the gradual lifting of restrictions from the state department of public health and is banking on more of the same. But plenty of hurdles remain on the path from April 12 to conducting section championships in June.
The Southern Section is by far the state's largest with roughly 560 schools scattered across eight counties. The steps to making a championship season happen include identifying a viable venue, getting that venue's county approval, and then getting approvals from all counties where schools would be traveling from.
"That's another part of this process to finally get these venues locked down and to get the actual championships to happen," Wigod said. "We'd like to keep it alive as long as we can. We won't be moving (the calendar) further backward; we're going to stick to the dates we've had since July.
"The only question will be how close we get to where there would have to be a decision made. I'm not going to commit to that today because we could get to the next couple of weeks and be able to line everything up. Or, maybe there's one or two health departments that we're waiting on and we might have to wait an additional week. Then we'll certainly keep that open as long as we can."
Wigod stressed that it is only April 12 and that there is time to deliver on a track and field championship calendar that has prelims scheduled for June 5, section finals on June 12, and the Masters Meet on June 19. Standard section divisional prelim sites in the past have been Trabuco Hills (D1), Moorpark (D2), Costa Mesa (D3), and Carpinteria (D4). The section finals and Masters Meet in recent years have been held at El Camino College.
Without getting specific, he said the Southern Section has already received approval from one of the track event sites. Still, he reiterated that leagues have to be able to conduct championships before the section can go forward.
"As we start to approach two weeks before, or a week before the actual (section) championship events are scheduled, then obviously if we're not seeing that approvals are being given and leagues aren't allowed to have league finals, therefore, we would not have the ability to do section championships," he said.
"But all the remains to be seen. Today is April 12. I would tell you that I don't think anything in the next month would dissuade us from our job. We're going to try as hard as we can here to get all this lined up. I wouldn't be looking for any drop-dead or cancellation issues for at least a month."
Earlier Monday, the CIF-SS released news that the section would go forward with championships in eight team sports. However, for individual sports, "we are actively working on securing approvals from various county health departments to ensure that we can conduct championship events involving student-athletes from all eight counties within the Southern Section footprint."
Those individual sports are golf, swimming and diving, tennis, and track and field.
"We want people to know that those team sports we talked about, we're pretty confident those are going to go forward right now and people need to be prepared for that," Wigod said in the news conference. "We'll do the very best we can to lock down these individual championship sites (for) the different sports."
Wigod reiterated something he has said in the past, that all the section wanted was a chance to prove they could go forward safely, and that he was excited to have the chance to deliver on that promise to the student-athletes.
"Some of this is behind us. Hopefully more and more that we do going forward puts more of this behind us," he said. "And then we can look back and say, 'Look what we got through. Look what we were able to endure. And look what is here on the other side.'
"We're going to hand plaques out again. We're going to see those smiles. We're going to see those dogpiles. We're going to see everyone jumping up and down and celebrating. All the things that we've missed. And we're looking forward to that. We're excited for that."