McFarland athletes who were allowed to begin conditioning now uncertain about season as Kern reverts back to purple tier

November 19, 2020 /

Since Kern County moved Monday into the most restrictive tier for COVID-19 cases, it is uncertain what will happen with sports teams that have begun particing.

On October 13th, the McFarland Unified School District approved a plan to bring limited groups of high school students on campus for conditioning.

Currently, the McFarland Unified School District is on a distance learning model for all students with the exception of students who require more attention and assistance. However, with CIF approved dates to start sport seasons, McFarland wants to bring students on campus for fall sports conditioning; however, health officials say this could be risky.

“Currently, the State has deemed contact sports as a high risk activity because participants cannot follow important COVID mitigation strategies like physical distancing,” said Michelle Corson, the public information officer for Kern County Public Health. “When contact sports are permitted by the State, guidance will be available to implement safety measures to limit COVID transmission risks.”

Corson advises school districts to follow sate guidelines when resuming sports conditioning or physical education to ensure that students and staff are resuming this activity safely and appropriately, she said.

Thomas Yasenchak, McFarland High School’s Athletic Director, got approval from the school board to allow students back on campus, and conditioning started Oct. 27.

Groups of ten athletes were formed for each practice session. Yasenchak designed a system in order to keep students from having contact with another. First, football was out there, then two days later volleyball and cross country followed.

All groups were in their designated spots around the school. Volleyball would practice on the tennis courts, cross country would run around the school and the track,  and football would practice at the John Wenger field located behind McFarland Junior High.

Although conditioning started, the school depends on following rules placed by the state governor and CIF. Because of this, it has been hard to tell if it would be possible to even have a game. Students are not allowed to make contact and can not share a ball, and teams can’t work with another because they can not make contact. 

Yasenchak says the school is prepared to have games, but it is a confusing situation due to the circumstances.

“You can’t play football and tackle somebody when you’re six feet apart,” Yasenchak said. “That’s not going to work.”

He continued: “Right now, we just don’t know if there’s a season. If we do have a season, say they do allow us to play sports, again it depends on what the governor says, are we allowed to have fans watch the games? If we do, do they have to sit six feet apart? Can we only allow a certain amount of people?” 

Although the staff had plans set for winter and other upcoming seasons, everything is uncertain. However, for the few weeks conditioning, some students were able to experience some normalcy during conditioning. 

Harvey Gonzalez, a junior from McFarland High School, was able to condition for cross country. Upon arrival, all students were required to wear a mask, and their temperatures were taken by staff.

“It was different since we had masks on and had limits to places we could run at,” Gonzalez said. “Right now we can’t run at the school or parks. The trainer has to check us everyday to be able to run.”

However, a relative of one of the students was diagnosed with coronavirus, causing all conditioning to be put to a halt.

Like everything else this year, a 2020-2021 season for sports is an uncertainty for students, coaches, and school officials, especially with Kern County moving down a tier again.