ASAA adjusts high school state championships, football may not see a playoff

Published: Sep. 3, 2020 at 7:45 PM AKDT
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The Alaska School Activities Association (ASAA), the regulating body for high school interscholastic activities in the state, held a board meeting Wednesday to discuss fall state championships and to revise the calendar of winter sports.

NOTE: The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is operating in “high-risk zone” as of publishing.

Cross Country Running

The 2020 cross country running state championships will not feature any team qualifiers, meaning no team championship. Instead, the top individual runners will qualify for the state meet, which is scheduled for October 10 at the Bartlett Trails in Anchorage. Six runners from Division I will qualify, 10 berths will be given to schools within Division II and 24 for DIII schools. The state meet typically features 70-75 runners, but with the new adjustments this year, the number is expected to be cut in half. There is still discussion on whether to implement time trials, where runners would begin in 15 second increments, rather than a mass start.

“It is never the goal of the board or of ASAA to decrease participation,” said ASAA Executive Director Billy Strickland on Thursday. “It was really a gut wrenching, but right decision to scale back some of our state tournaments. If we would have brought in teams [to the cross country state meet], we would have run the risk of leaving some of our better runners behind because you would have been bringing sixth, seventh place runners on a team as opposed to a kid that might have finished well ahead of them at a regional event.”


In past tennis state tournaments, two teams each from Region III and VI, four teams from Region IV and one team from Region V would make up the tournament field. This year, one player each from Regions I, V, and VI and two from Region IV will be able to qualify for the state tournament. This will allow the tournament to be completed in just one day, October 10 at the Anchorage Alaska Club without fans in attendance.


The high school wrestling schedule has been pushed back over a month. The season was previously slated to start September 30 with the state tournament running on December 18 and 19. This year, the first official practice will take place November 2 with the state tournament set for the weekend of January 29 and 30.

“With wrestling shifting later into the winter, the goal would be somewhat different depending on the size of the school. Typically, our large schools don’t have a lot of carry over between wrestlers and basketball. At our smallest schools, it is often the very same students. The board will now try to determine how to tweak a basketball calendar to create the least amount of overlap.”


At the board meeting, basketball was also discussed, however, Strickland says they are not in a rush to come to a conclusion. As mentioned, the wrestling calendar will likely have an effect on the basketball schedule.

“This could result in a different calendar for small school basketball (1A, 2A) as opposed to large school basketball (3A, 4A),” he said. “The other big issue is, in the spring, we have a lot of facility crunch at a lot of our schools. As basketball moves into the spring, it really starts impacting the soccer programs, the baseball programs, the softball programs and track and field. Often times, and this is very true in the Fairbanks area, those schools are having to share the same gym a lot. So, if basketball moves too far into the spring, then we start getting into those. The ASAA calendar is the major compromise in all things, because you’re trying to find that spot to where it works for the most people.

“One of the things the board is really trying not to do is overly impact the spring sports calendar, because that was the group last year that was by far the most impacted.”


“On that September 23 meeting, we are going to be trying to see a little bit more about what is going on with football and whether or not it is feasible to come up with a system to have state championships at all three levels (DI, DII, DIII),” said Strickland. “Football is one of the few, if not only, sports where there is no conference tournament. The regular season games dictate who qualifies into the playoffs. Because we are having games not being played in the regular season, we have to see that actually happening before we could then determine who you would qualify for the playoffs. The board and the staff felt like we have to give football a little bit more time to see if games are going to be able to be played and how we could make that work. It is just too preliminary to talk football playoffs right now.”

Playing in the red zone

As of now, if a school district is in the red, or high-risk zone, sporting events and competition are ceased. ASAA is considering implementing a model for districts to still hold competition in the red zone if they choose to do so.

“We had some good meetings with the Department of Health and they indicated that the alert level isn’t necessarily as significant as the mitigation plans in place for the activity,” Strickland added. “If we allow competition at a high-level, I think then we wouldn’t be necessarily having to have this, ’I can play, I can’t play.’ Now again, that is ultimately going to come back to the district. We may decide,’ nope, it is not the right thing to do’. We want to relook at it not just from a school standpoint but also relook at it from a health standpoint.”

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