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The New Mexico Activities Association has approved a final calendar to allow high school sports to be played during the 2020-21 school year.

The NMAA decision followed an announcement from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham that New Mexico school districts would be able to return to in-person learning beginning on Monday, Feb. 8.

According to the calendar the NMAA approved, football, volleyball and cross country are the first sports which will be allowed to move into in-season practice followed by competition.

The seasons for those three sports will begin on Feb. 22, with competition for cross country and volleyball beginning the following Saturday, Feb. 27.

In order to allow football players more time to prepare for the physicality of the season, the first football games will not be play until Thursday, March 4.

Soccer will begin practice on March 1, with games commencing on Saturday, March 6.

The schedule, despite being so condensed, will follow the same pattern as a normal year would, beginning with fall sports and ending with spring sports.

The majority of the winter sports — swimming and diving, basketball and spirit — will begin on March 22, with competitions allowed beginning Saturday, March 27.

Wrestling is currently scheduled to begin on March 29, but NMAA Executive Director Sally Marquez noted during the meeting there was a possibility it would be delayed.

“Wrestling is a major concern for us and the state,” Marquez said. “We’re not in a position to move that forward any more and we should be prepared for a possible delay.”

Ensuring that spring sports were able to happen was always the top priority of the NMAA after those sports lost their seasons last March when COVID-19 first came to New Mexico.

Despite numerous changes and delays to the schedule made by the NMAA over the last 11 months, spring sports are still scheduled to begin when they always were on April 5.

Baseball, softball, track and field, tennis and golf will all begin on March 5 and run through the middle of June, thanks to an amendment passed by the NMAA board, allowing the season to run past graduation due to the unique nature of this year.

In discussion during the first emergency meeting on the issue, held Jan. 27, the board discussed putting contingencies on participation after graduation, such as living at home, as part of a vote allowing students who graduated in following the fall semester to participate in their sports this spring if they so desired.

No action was taken on the contingencies, but it will likely come up again at the board’s next regularly scheduled meeting.

Championships in all sports will look much different this year, with sports such as cross country and track and field, normally held as one big event, split up based on classes and held over two weekends.

In sports like volleyball, where all matches typically occur at one big neutral site, all games until the finals will be held at home sites, with the finals taking place at the University of New Mexico.

For a school district to participate in athletics, the current guidance from the New Mexico Public Education Department and the governor’s office states they must be in hybrid learning, and districts that decide to remain fully remote will not be allowed to participate.

In the event a district decides to go hybrid but an athlete within that district decides to remain in remote learning, they would still be allowed to participate.

The approved calendar applies to sub-varsity teams, from junior varsity and C team down to middle school, however it is a district decision, so districts may choose not to participate at those levels.

What local school districts will decide to do is still up in the air.

Following a 4-1 vote by the Los Lunas Board of Education to remain in remote learning through at least their next meeting on March 23, the return of athletics to the students of the district remains on hold and would wipe out seasons in volleyball, football and cross country and soccer.

Seasons for winter sports would be impacted by a late March return to hybrid, but likely not wiped out.

The Belen Board of Education held a workshop on Feb. 2 to discuss re-entry, and may vote on a plan as early as Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Sports writer

Cameron Goeldner grew up in Boulder, Colo., and attended the University of New Mexico. He covers everything sports for all Valencia County schools.

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