As we approach the one year mark from when local high school sports shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the light at the end of the tunnel is beginning to appear.
This afternoon, La Quinta and Xavier Prep competed in a cross country meet. This was the second competition locally and first for each of these two schools since March of 2020.
“I think I just appreciate it more now knowing that we can’t take it for granted. When it kept getting pushed back over and over I was like, ‘Wow! Maybe it won’t happen!’ But now that it’s here, I just appreciate it a lot more,” said Molly May of Xavier Prep, the girls' top finisher.
“Super fun! We haven’t had a competition like this in like a year, so it was kind of nice that me and the boys got out here,” said Raen Reyes of La Quinta, the boys' top finisher.
“The fact that we get to host a meet and kids get back to doing what they love to do is a win-win for everybody, I think that’s 100 percent victory,” said Xavier Prep cross country coach Aron Lyons.
“It’s been a positive thing, it’s a great thing! It’s time for our kids to get the opportunity to compete. You know, they’ve been sitting on the sidelines for so long. We’re just excited! We’re excited to have the opportunity to get them out there and it’s good for the community, it’s good for the school, it’s good for the area, so it’s just an exciting time, we’re very happy,” said said Juan Ramon Ruiz, La Quinta High School's Athletic Director.
The first competition was a cross country meet between Indio High School and Shadow Hills High School, which took place on February 12.
Prior to last Friday, cross country was the only fall sport allowed in the purple tier. The California Department of Public Health released new guidance for youth sports, which is allowing sports - like football and water polo - to begin their seasons once the county reaches 14 cases per 100,000 people.
“It feels a little exciting and a little overwhelming. Obviously I’m excited for the guys, especially the seniors to have an opportunity to get some film, obviously some of those rising juniors, they need the film too," said Xavier Prep football coach James Dockery. "The kids have gone through so much this year. They go to school to get the good grades, they work out, the reward is to be able to play and so I’m happy about that, but logistically and just trying to get everything in order in such a quick turnaround, that’s hard. But, I’m willing to do that for our guys.”
As of this Tuesday, Riverside County is at 16.6 cases per 100,000. This is a big improvement (-12.2) from the previous week, where Riverside County had an adjusted case rate of 28.8 cases per 100,000. These numbers are updated every Tuesday. If the current trend stands, Riverside County should reach the threshold to allow all outdoor sports to begin next week.
“You know obviously if we hit that 14 threshold that’s set, we’ll be able to move forward with outside fall sports, so we’re excited for that, again, going back to the same thing I said about cross country, our kids are just chomping at the bit to compete, so we’re getting ready, so hopefully next week, sometime mid-week, we’ll start moving forward with those outdoor fall sports,” said Ramon Ruiz.
“Just being able to play with the guys you went to grade school with or middle school with, and to be able to play the crosstown rival, some of those guys you went to school with, and wearing your varsity jacket… to me that’s the American Story," said Dockery. "I’m just so excited that they get to continue to experience what we all know to be some of the best times of our lives in high school."
This would also impact many spring sports, which run from March through June this year.
Golf, track and field, swimming and diving, and tennis are able to start in the purple tier, whether the county meets the 14 cases per 100,000 threshold or not. Sports like baseball, softball, and soccer can begin on schedule in March as long as the threshold is met.
Stay with the News Channel 3 sports team for updates!