State officials give green light for Vermont H.S. sports to begin

Vermont’s days without high school sports competition are finally numbered.

The number is four.

State officials on Tuesday announced that Vermont will be transitioning to Step III of its “Strong and Healthy Start” plan on Saturday, Sept. 26, marking that as the first day games can take place between schools.

Teams have been practicing since Sept. 8, the first day of school across the state. Before COVID-19, the fall sports calendar would have begun with preseason in mid-August and games later that month.

“We wanted to give our student-athletes an extra weekend for what has already been a shortened season,” said Dan French, the state’s secretary of education, at a news conference Tuesday.

More:Vermont schools moving to Step 3: What does it mean for students in Chittenden County?

The move comes after an announcement last week that cast uncertainty on when or if high school sports would get off the ground for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic upended everyday life in March.

Many schools had interpreted previous state guidance signaled a possible Sept. 21 start date and assembled schedules accordingly.

More:100 days without sports: Looking back at the last games played in Vermont

French said the decision to move from Step II to Step III was based on “the overall health conditions of the virus in Vermont” as well as an assessment of schools’ ability to implement required health protocols.

Burlington boys soccer players play on Buck Hard field during practice at Burlington High School on Monday afternoon September 21, 2020 in Burlington, Vermont.

“In spite of the few cases we have seen in schools, the conditions remain very positive,” French said. “The cases we have seen in schools are essentially the result of the virus being brought to school. To date we have not seen transmission of the virus in schools.”

The new start date means nine football games originally slated for Friday will need to be rescheduled. Middlebury athletic director Sean Farrell, the scheduler for the Vermont Interscholastic Football League, said he anticipates several of them will seek to play Saturday.

Some sports have opted to extend their seasons by a week. The final days of competition for each fall sport are outlined below

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Fall championship dates

► Bass fishing: Saturday, Oct. 3, at John Guilmette Access Area in South Hero

► Girls golf: Tuesday, Oct. 6 at Champlain Country Club in Swanton.

 Boys golf: Wednesday, Oct. 7 at Country Club of Barre.

► Cross-country running: Saturday, Oct. 31 at Thetford Academy.

 Field hockey: Saturday, Oct. 31, sites TBD

► Boys and girls soccer: Saturday, Nov. 7, sites TBD.

► Boys and girls volleyball: No postseason.

► Football: No postseason.

Contact Austin Danforth at 651-4851 or edanforth@freepressmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter at @eadanforth.

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