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Milaca versus Foley in a contest last fall. The Wolves will now have to wait until this spring to begin their season after the MSHSL’s Board of Directors decided to move the sport’s season due to concerns around COVID-19. 

The Minnesota High School League Board of Directors met Aug. 4 and made the tough decision regarding high school sports this fall amid the COVID-19 health pandemic. The MSHSL decided to move football and volleyball to a winter/spring season while allowing the other fall sports to begin Aug. 17.

Those sports include girls’ tennis, soccer, cross country, and girls’ swimming and diving.

The MSHSL plans to have a four-sport season with a new season during mid-March to mid-May 2021 with Spring sports running from May to July.

Football, volleyball and spring sports that had their seasons canceled are also now allowed to practice during the fall.

This decision caught Milaca Athlete Director Brian Julson, off-guard. “My initial reaction was one of disappointment and frustration for our student athletes and their families,” Julson said. “While I was surprised with the decisions, I did sit in on the meeting and listened to the great dialogue and discussion that went into these decisions.”

The MSHSL Board of Directors met for over five hours discussing and voting on its plan for this fall.

Julson believes the options limits smaller schools compared to those schools with larger enrollments. “I believe their rulings do not create equity across the state and between program to program, especially for outstate districts with limited facilities space. We have multiple sport athletes here and we do not have a turf field and fieldhouse, something that some metro schools have, which makes these decisions easier to deal with,” Julson said. He’s concerned about the Wolves dealing with a possible football season during a Minnesota spring.

At the end of the day, Julson and the MSHSL both understand what their first priority. “The ultimate goal and our main focus, along with the MSHSL is keeping our participants safe,” Julson said.

Princeton Athletic Director Darin Laabs was also surprised, but trusts the decisions that were made. “This was a last resort, everybody involved in the high school league wants to play, that’s what we are all about. It had to be a gut-wrenching decision for them to do this but I trust that they are doing this for a reason. At least we get to play something,” Laabs said.

Now, the challenge begins for both athletic directors as they scramble to put together an abridged season.

New rules this fall include a three-team limit for a cross country meet, a two -team limit per meet for tennis and swimming and dive and contests limited to less than two per week per team, while soccer will have a 20% reduction in weeks with competitions also reduced by 30%, with one to two games per week for teams.

Julson said the Granite Ridge Conference is already meeting to put together a schedule. “We met on Aug. 6 to work through the huge challenge of schedules, officials, and event workers. We are working through those challenges in the coming days and weeks,” Julson reported.

Princeton and the rest of the Mississippi 8 ADx have met multiple times in the past week to also put together a schedule for competition, Laabs said.

With football and volleyball postponed, other sports that are being allowed to play will most likely experience increased participation. “I think there will be an uptick, I know that the coaches that I have talked to are encouraging their kids to play another sport and not just focus on the practices they are doing and be in a competitive sport if they are interested,” Laabs said.

With tentative schedules being developed, the chance that COVID-19 derails a season is still very much a possibility. However, both schools will continue to grind through the pandemic and give some of their athletes the chance. Practices for both schools start next Monday, Aug. 17.

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