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Sports Return: Fall Seasons Begin for Athletes at West Hartford’s Conard and Hall High Schools

Conard field hockey team practicing on Sept. 30. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The Oct. 1 Conard vs. Hall field hockey game was postponed due to a possible COVID-19 exposure, but other fall sports involving athletes from West Hartford’s Conard and Hall high schools began Oct. 1.

Conard boys cross country practices on the track. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

It’s been more than six months since many of West Hartford’s high school athletes have competed on the field – or in the pool or gym – but Conard and Hall teams were ready Oct. 1 for the long-awaited fall sports season to begin.

“The kids are really excited, the coaches are excited. They’ve had a lot of time to practice and they’re ready to go,” Athletic Director Jason Siegal said Thursday.

Because so much uncertainty exists, West Hartford teams, like many other teams throughout the state, are holding senior nights at their first or second home contests.

For most sports, two parents will be permitted to attend home contests, Siegal said, but with the exception of media, other spectators are not permitted to attend. That applies to all outdoor sports and indoor volleyball.

“When Hall and Conard play each other, we allow both Hall and Conard parents to attend,” Siegal added.

All spectators are expected to wear face coverings and maintain social distancing, and should self-screen and not attend contests if they do not feel well or are supposed to be in quarantine.

Cornerstone is not allowing spectators at all at this time, Siegal said.

All of the home swim meets, and as many of the other home contests as possible, will be streamed live on YouTube by West Hartford Community Interactive.

WHCi Executive Director Jen Evans said that the station received a grant for cameras that use artificial intelligence and are able to record and stream without need for a person operating them, but those cameras have not yet been received. Until they are, staff and volunteers will do their best to provide as much game coverage as possible, in addition to streaming town meetings.

The station currently has five cameras that are able to stream to YouTube. “We can only do five things at once,” Evans said.

To watch, and receive notifications when contests are going live, subscribe to the West Hartford Community Interactive YouTube channel.

Playing sports amid the COVID-19 pandemic requires extra precautions and flexibility – and an understanding that conditions may change rapidly. That happened Thursday afternoon when the Conard vs. Hall varsity and JV field hockey games were abruptly postponed.

“There was a potential exposure on the Conard team,” Siegal said. “And out of an abundance of caution it was postponed.” He said that officials are working with the West Hartford-Bloomfield Health District to obtain additional information.

“We’re not aware of any new cases. We’re just being very cautious,” Siegal said.

Football, which is traditionally a fall sport, is not holding 11-on-11 competition this season but the two high school teams are still practicing, Siegal said, working out in low risk skill-specific activities and conditioning.

Both Conard and Hall football teams will have an element of competition this fall.

“For 7-on-7 football, we are a go in West Hartford,” Siegal said.

Conard and Hall, along with West Hartford’s Northwest Catholic High School, Simsbury, Enfield, and Windsor, will compete against each other, with contests beginning next week, in what is essentially one-hand touch football, Siegal said. There will be activities in which linemen can compete as well.

Football teams were permitted to move to full team practices along with other sports, but Siegal said that although a large number of athletes are involved, they are still cohort by position.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) did issue new guidance Tuesday, amending the typical timing of the winter and spring season, and inserting a “second semester alternative season” in 2021. Football, as well as any other sport that does not complete at least 40% of their regular games during their regular season, could take place during that alternative season.

“I anticipate, if the metrics allow, we would participate in that season,” Siegal said.

The 7-on-7 football season will not preclude teams from participation in the alternative season.

The CIAC is discouraging participation in independent 11-on-11 full contact football, however. “Per the legal guidance of Shipman and Goodwin, the CIAC recommends that football coaches’ access to their student athletes during the fall season be limited to school sponsored low to moderate activities. Given the latest sport guidance from the [Department of Public Health], which extends to youth and independent league football, it is recommended that member schools adhere to CIAC’s out-of-season coaching rules for non-school based football teams and activities.”

The second semester alternative season would begin with conditioning on Feb. 22, right after the modified winter sports season ends, with contests taking place between March 19-April 17. Spring sports contests are scheduled to begin on April 23, with conditioning (for those not participating in the alternative season) beginning on April 11.

“The kids and coaches have done a fantastic job maintaining and following guidelines to get us to this point,” Siegal  said. “I’d like to remind the community to do the same.”

Wearing masks and social distancing is just as important when outside of school, said Siegal. “We need to work together as a community.”

He wants to keep the sports season going as long as possible and is hopeful that if everyone does their part, “we should be in good shape.”

Conard varsity contests scheduled for Oct. 1 include:

  • Boys soccer vs. Enfield (Conard won, 6-1, see game on YouTube below)
  • Girls soccer vs. Enfield (Conard won, 3-1)
  • Girls volleyball vs. Enfield (Conard won, 3-0, see match on YouTube below)

Conard will host Enfield in boys and girls cross country on Friday, Oct. 2, and Conard field hockey will play at Newington High School.

Hall boys and girls cross country, boys and girls soccer, and volleyball teams were all scheduled to face Hartford Public High School on Friday, but those contests were postponed.

Hall field hockey will host East Catholic on Friday, Oct. 2, at 5 p.m.

Conard and Hall boys and girls soccer will face each other on Saturday, with the boys playing at Conard at 2 p.m. and the girls at Hall at 6 p.m.

Conard will also host Hall for volleyball on Saturday, at 3 p.m.

The Conard vs. Hall field hockey game has not yet been rescheduled.

According to the CIAC schedule, the first swimming and diving meet for both schools is Conard vs. Hall, scheduled for Oct. 7 at Cornerstone Aquatics Center.

As of noon Thursday, there were two active COVID-19 cases in the Hall High School community and one in the Conard community. A total of 28 individuals between the two high schools were in quarantine Thursday, down from 33 the previous day.

West Hartford Public Schools COVID-19 dashboard, Oct. 1, 2020.

In order to ensure privacy, information on the West Hartford Public Schools COVID-19 dashboard does not specify whether or not individuals who test positive or are in quarantine are students or teachers/staff.

Conard vs. Enfield boys soccer

Conard vs. Enfield girls volleyball

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