Waunakee’s winter athletes could be suiting up for competition next week, thanks to school officials approving an accelerated start date for medium- to high-risk sporting events.
Members of the co-curricular committee recently approved a Jan. 4 start to winter competition.
The move came at the request of Waunakee coaches, who asked the school board this month to reconsider the Jan. 11 date it set in November for the start of medium- to high-risk competition.
“Having that extra week is big in terms of being able to schedule with other teams, because it gives us an extra five or six days of flexibility for finding a match to compete in,” Waunakee athletic director Aaron May said. “So the more flexibility we have, the better chance we have of creating a good experience for these kids.”
May spoke at the school board’s Dec. 14 meeting on behalf of several coaches who approached administration recently, about the possibility of an earlier kickoff to their winter sports season.
The athletic director explained that a Jan. 11 start to competition left little time for events.
He noted that wrestling would be allowed just two meets prior to the start of WIAA tournament competition, with a single opponent per meet due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“So someone like Sam Lorenz, who’s a three-time state entrant trying to be a four-time state entrant – potentially our first ever in Waunakee history – if there’s a cancellation, he’s going to have one match before he walks into WIAA regionals and sectionals to qualify for state,” May said.
May argued that the later start date would have a negative effect on Lorenz and fellow students.
“That’s not setting him or any of our other athletes up for success. So if we’re about excellence, and we’re committed to being the best program we can be, we need these games to prepare these kids for the tournament series so that we can perform at the highest level,” May said.
May presented board members with a set of COVID-19 guidelines he had drafted for regulating winter competition, the majority of which will need to take place outside Dane County.
Public Health orders have prohibited in-county competition among moderate- to high-risk sports.
A motion to approve the guidelines and the accelerated start date failed by a 3-4 vote, with more than one board member expressing concern about allowing such events while schools remain closed.
“One of the things that we talked around this board about was the holiday season,” treasurer Jack Heinemann said. “The reason we’ve pushed things back is because we were concerned about that. And here we’re saying it’s okay to start engaging right after the Christmas break.”
Others shared concerns about the guidelines themselves, noting contradictions within the document.
“As I kept reading the COVID protocol that was put out by you guys,” director Brian Hoefer said, “there’s a lot of contrary indications where you say ‘we’re not doing this,’ and two lines later you say ‘but if we do this...’ So there’s some cleanup that needs to be done on these policies.”
President Dave Boetcher agreed that clarification would be helpful, noting that the protocol regarding spectators was unclear in the guidelines proposed by May and the athletic department.
The subject had been discussed by members of the medical advisory committee earlier that night.
“And I really noted what Dr. Ranum said, which is that the spread and stuff they’re seeing out of sporting events is almost entirely the parents and the spectators; it’s not the kids on the court,” Boetcher said. “I was surprised they made that differentiation, because that’s what Ranum is seeing.”
Boetcher proposed that the guidelines be redrafted and presented to the co-curricular committee for final approval, due to timing of the request. The motion passed by a 5-2 vote.
May presented updated guidelines to the committee on Dec. 22, which were unanimously approved along with a Jan. 4 start for medium- to high-risk competition.