Brett Ogorzalek

McFarland High School boys' soccer coach Brett Ogorzalek, holds the 2019 WIAA Division 3 sectional championship plaque. He is abiding with the opinions of scientists and medical experts on the dangers of the COVID-19 pandemic but he is hoping his team can resume play in the spring. The Rock Valley Conference, in which McFarland competes, postponed the fall sports season due to concerns over the virus spreading to athletes, coaches and fans. It's possible fall sports could be shifted to spring 2021.

Athletes who play fall sports at McFarland and Monona Grove high schools will have to wait until possibly spring 2021 to get on the playing field.

The Rock Valley and Badger conferences recently announced fall sports will be postponed in 2020 to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

McFarland is a member of the Rock Valley Conference in fall sports such as football, girls golf, girls tennis boys soccer, boys and girls cross-country and volleyball.

Monona Grove plays those same sports in the Badger Conference. The McFarland and Monona Grove girls swimming teams compete in the Badger Conference.

“The goal of the Badger Conference, first and foremost, continues to be the health and safety of our school district communities,” conference officials said in a statement. “Regardless of the type of event, health and safety must come first.”

McFarland Athletic Director and head football coach Paul Ackley said the Rock Valley Conference’s decision to delay the fall sports hinged on several points with fall sports starting after the winter sports season, and spring sports starting at the end of the rescheduled fall season.

All three sports seasons may be adjusted or truncated as appropriate to account for equitable impact on, and opportunities for all programs.

“I am very sorry that we are having to deal with this. I am saddened by the situation but hopeful that we can make a season in the spring.,” Ackley said.

He said if any athletes or parents have questions, comments or concerns, they should contact him.

Monona Grove made the decision to cancel fall sports several days before the Badger Conference made its announcement.

“We have decided to go virtual for instruction and suspend all fall sports seasons at this time due to Public Health Madison and Forward Dane recommendations,” MG Athletic Director Jeff Schreiner said. “We will look to review the opportunity alternatives offered by the WIAA to make a more informed decision about fall sports.”

Disappointment, frustration

McFarland girls golf coach Chris Duerk said he is disappointed and frustrated over the decision to cancel fall sports, but he understands it was made to assure the safety of athletes, coaches and fans.

“There are just too many unknowns and too many logistics that would have to be figured out. I’m grateful for the fact that we still have a chance to play in the spring,” Duerk said. “I hope the girls take advantage of the opportunity that they still get to go out golf on their own. This will be huge for them as we look to play in the spring.”

Duerk said Rock Valley Conference girls golf coaches have discussed organizing a fall golf league where coaches and schools would not be involved, but nothing has been finalized.

Monona Grove boys soccer coach Randy Becker said he is relieved but also sad that his team will not be playing in the fall. He said there are still a lot of unanswered questions concerning COVID-19, and he agrees fall sports should be postponed.

“I think that currently it would be too dangerous to try and play now. To play a season now and not have a single person come down with COVID-19 season is too daunting of a challenge,” Becker said. “For me, it is very real as I know several people indirectly that had COVID-19 and passed away through it. Every season, there are kids that get the flu during the season and it works its way through the teams. The same thing would happen with COVID-19.”

Listening to the experts

McFarland boys soccer coach Brett Ogorzalek, who coached the Spartans to consecutive state tournament berths in 2018-19, said he anticipates the start of the season in the spring, and he is hoping his athletes will be in shape when the schedule begins.

“The idea of having a season is obviously great news. The fact it’s been put off until spring, I don’t feel strongly one way or the other, because I’m not an expert in the medical field, so I’m doing what I’ve been told and trusting the science and medical experts during the pandemic,” Ogorzalek said. “The guys are going to prepare. We’re going to try to be fit and ready to go. I assume they will let us train over the winter and not let us train fall. Hopefully, the guys are ready to go when the season comes. We obviously have a lot of great players and a lot of great leaders on the team, and we have a lot of fun together.”

McFarland High School volleyball coach Trish Fortune, who guided the Spartans to the WIAA Division 2 state championship game in 2019, said the Rock Valley Conference’s decision was the best one that could be made.

”I am happy that our season isn’t cancelled and that we will have the opportunity to play at some point. We have a quality team coming back after our incredible season last year,” Fortune said. “More important than talent though, is that these girls are unselfish and hard working, and we have a ton of fun in the gym together. As a coach, I continue to count my blessings and am proud of the players. I have seen some off season improvement by everyone and when the time comes, we will enjoy every minute of playing volleyball.” Monona Grove girls cross-country coach Amanda Klassman also expressed disappointment that the season will not begin in the fall.

“We are bummed that we won’t be able to get a season this year. Our girls have been working hard on their own all summer, and we were excited to compete,” Klassman said. “We are still waiting to find out what our fall contact will look like. However, our fantastic senior class has already come up with plenty of ways motivate our team and keep them working hard throughout the fall.”

Last month, the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) board of control delayed the start of fall practices of sports where there is a low risk of contract such as cross-country, swimming, golf and tennis starting Aug. 17 with high-risk sports such as football, volleyball and soccer starting practices Sept. 7.

Fears of the virus spreading through the state forced WIAA to cancel the boys and girls state basketball tournaments in March and the entire spring 2020 sports season.

Earlier this week, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported that COVID-19 had sickened nearly 59,000 in the state and killed 956 since the virus was declared a pandemic last spring.

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