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Kaneland

'It's going to be different' Area athletes, coaches react to IHSA changes in the sports calendar

St. Charles East coach Jennie Kull talks with the Fighting Saints  during their IHSA Class 2A girls Class 4A volleyball sectional final against Huntley at Dundee-Crown High School on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 in Carpentersville.  Huntley beat St. Charles East in straight sets, 25-13, 25-15.
St. Charles East coach Jennie Kull talks with the Fighting Saints during their IHSA Class 2A girls Class 4A volleyball sectional final against Huntley at Dundee-Crown High School on Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2019 in Carpentersville. Huntley beat St. Charles East in straight sets, 25-13, 25-15.

Burlington Central junior golfer Tyson Malak missed the cut by one stroke at the IHSA state golf tournament last season.

He could get an opportunity to rectify that later this fall.

The IHSA unveiled the entire sports calendar for the 2020-21 athletics season Wednesday. Boys and girls golf, girls tennis, boys and girls cross country and girls swimming and diving remain as fall sports and run Aug. 10 through Oct. 24.

Specific details on what the season could look like – and whether there will even be a state tournament – are yet to be revealed. Malak and his fellow athletes are simply pleased to get a chance to compete.

"It's great. I was worried that they were going to cancel some of the sports in general," said Malak, who has competed in a host of Illinois Junior Golf tournaments this summer.

Malak tied for second place in a pair of tournaments this month alone and tied for third at one on July 13.

"[My teammates] are happy," Malak said. "They were also worried it might get canceled. I mean, we didn't know. But, they're also happy. They're looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to the season in a few weeks.

Six sports, including football and boys soccer and girls volleyball, were shifted to spring 2021. That season runs Feb. 15 through May 1. Baseball, softball, track and field, girls soccer and three additional sports were shifted to the summer, a season that will span May 3 through June 26.

"I'm so excited," St. Charles East coach Jennie Kull said. "I think [the decision] gives every single kid that wants to play a sport an opportunity."

"It's going to be different," Kull continued. "It's going to be kind of cool to be in school for a while and get to know kids before they try out for the team."

A situation to watch develop will be how athletes weigh whether to play with their clubs for a season or with their high school.

"At this point, I don't care," Kull said. "I know that my kids want to play high school volleyball. So, it would be the club's loss, I think, if they didn't follow through and let our kids do that."

"High school volleyball is a blast. It's their community...for us, at least, it's their community," Kull continued.

What exactly each respective sport will look like is still coming into focus. At least for cross country, a number of possibilities are in play with meet and race structures.

"I think that there are a variety of ways in which we're going to experience cross country season this year, but I don't think that it will look identical to what 2019 did as far as groups and groups of people on the starting line and taking off together," Kaneland cross country coach Chad Clarey said.

One race structure idea could begin with the top runners running off before a delayed start for the second wave would follow. Another could entail having a race consisting of an entire team, they finish, and then the next team would go until all teams have gone.

Prior to the IHSA announcement, Gov. J.B. Pritzker unveiled separate guidelines and restrictions for sports across the spectrum excluding professional and college sports. The restrictions entail various levels which illustrate to what degree sports can be competed in.

Sports also have attached risk factors ranging from high to low, depending on the level of contact involved for the sport. Cross country is currently deemed "lower...if number of teams is significantly limited and physical workspace guidelines followed."

Competition for fall sports is currently limited to to conference opponents "and other schools in the same general geographical area."

The Kane County Invite has already been canceled. Other factors to consider are the possible wearing of facial masks at starting lines are also being considered. Coaches are awaiting further guidance from the Illinois Department of Public Health.

"I've been in communication with at least one or two other coaches in regards to 'do we set up a series of just dual meets, where our teams get to run head-to-head and maybe have a shorter day with it?'" Clarey said.

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