The NHIAA winter spirit state championship meet will be virtual this season, a model that the organization is also considering for both the swimming and diving and gymnastics state meets.
The NHIAA canceled the indoor track and field regular season and state meets but many schools have created outdoor running clubs or will treat this as an intramural season for their teams. NHIAA bowling teams have been split into four scheduling pods for the regular season and will wear face coverings at all times. Skiing will have restrictions on the number of athletes and lodge usage allowed at competitions.
Just like their hockey and basketball counterparts, other NHIAA winter sports committees have found creative ways for their teams to compete or at least train this year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just as some New Hampshire high schools are in a hybrid learning model — some in-person classes and some virtual — certain sports may follow a similar model.
For instance, said, NHIAA Executive Director Jeff Collins, the swimming regular season will likely consist of time trials, intrasquad meets, virtual meets and small dual meets. Collins said the state meet will either be virtual or held over several days to limit the number of people at the venue.
How would a virtual meet work? Teams could compete at their home pools and post their results online.
High school swimming dual meets in most years are held at clubs and colleges, and the state meets are usually held on one day at UNH.
“We have to be realistic with what’s going on in the state, what can happen but we can’t give up on the fact kids need these opportunities,” Collins said.
Pinkerton Academy of Derry headmaster and former athletic director Tim Powers, who is the NHIAA Gymnastics Committee chair, said the gymnastics regular season will be shortened. Each team will have about a month for regular-season competition before the state meet, which is scheduled for Feb. 13, he said. Powers said Pinkerton has three or four regular-season meets scheduled this year, down a few from normal years.
Like in the past, independent gymnasts (not part of a high school team) can follow the regular-season schedule of a team that competes at the same gym or is local to them. Gymnastics regular-season schedules will be regionalized this year, Powers said.
Gymnastics COVID prevention protocols include prohibiting common chalk bowls and requiring athletes to wear face coverings whenever they are not competing.
Pinkerton will compete only in two-team regular-season meets but other schools will have three- to four-team meets, Powers said. The number of teams at a regular-season meet is not overly important, though, because each team’s individual score determines its placement for the state meet, Powers said.
“The other teams there are irrelevant in terms of that team score,” Powers said. “You can’t look at it like a disadvantage going against one or three other schools. You don’t get to see them or their routines but you can see scores and make judgments based off that.”
Powers said if the gymnastics state meet went virtual, the committee would have to find a way for people to watch the event and figure out how judging would work.
Bowling in podsThe NHIAA bowling season, which has been extended by two weeks this year, will consist of regular-season pod play before the NHIAA team championship at Merrimack Ten Pin Center on March 6 and the individual championship at Strikers East Bowling Center in Raymond on March 13.
The south pod consists of Bishop Guertin of Nashua, Merrimack, Hollis/Brookline and Souhegan of Amherst, which will all compete at Merrimack Ten Pin. The central pod is Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, Pinkerton, Raymond and Sanborn of Kingston, which will all compete at Strikers. The west pod is Keene, Hillsboro-Deering and Stevens of Claremont. The east pod is Goffstown, Spaulding of Rochester, Dover and Winnacunnet of Hampton.
NHIAA Bowling Committee chair and former Bishop Guertin athletic director Peter Paladino said bowling teams outside the pods that will use the state championship sites in the regular season can request any team within either of those pods to use them. The agreeing team would then either compete in the requesting team’s pod or have a bye that week. For example, if Bishop Guertin accepted Stevens’ request to compete at Merrimack Ten Pin, then Bishop Guertin would play with the west pod group or take a bye that week. The switches can happen only as long as each pod has at least two teams to compete that week, Paladino said.
Bowling teams will be limited in the number of people they can bring to each meet and spectators are prohibited. Typically, some teams bring alternate bowlers and their junior varsity teams to meets, Paladino said.
Short ski seasonNHIAA Ski Committee member and Hanover ski jumping coach Tom Dodds said there will be a cap of 80 athletes allowed and social distancing procedures at NHIAA ski meets this year.
Dodds said the Jan. 11 start date for all NHIAA winter sports competition has shortened the ski season considerably. The regular season will last less than a month for most ski teams.
For Alpine, the Division IV boys and Division II girls meets are scheduled for Feb. 8 at Crotched Mountain, the Division IV girls meet is scheduled for Feb. 9 at Mount Sunapee, the Division III boys (Feb. 9), Division III girls (Feb. 8), Division I boys (Feb. 11) and Division I girls (Feb. 10) meets will take place at Gunstock and the Division II boys meet is scheduled for Feb. 9 at Cranmore.
“It’s a challenge. I think we all realize that,” Powers said. “People have the right perspective — do everything we can to get as much of a season in as possible.”