High School sports in Fairbanks-area make the most of their time in the ‘Red Zone’

Published: Sep. 9, 2020 at 7:46 PM AKDT
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The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District transitioned into the high-risk, or red zone, on August 31, ceasing all sports competitions.

This is based on the district’s “Risk Level Decision Matrix”, which considers entering the red zone if the borough sees more than 10 new cases of COVID-19 over a 14-day average, per 100,000 people. Including Wednesday’s case numbers, the borough has seen an average of 14.3 new cases per day over the last two weeks, as the district continues to operate at the high-risk level.

While in the red zone, participants from all sports at all schools within the district are still allowed to gather and practice under stricter protocols implemented by the Alaska School Activities Association. ASAA guidelines for practice in the high-risk zone include 10-foot social distancing, limitations on shared equipment and restrictions on physical contact. Although no games can be played, North Pole High School Activities Coordinator Robyn Myrum believes it is still beneficial for the student-athletes to get together and practice.

“I think just being involved in something is important for them, for their mental health, and feeling like they are part of something since they have been so detached from school and things that they would normally do," said Myrum. "I think for some of them, it’s motivation for them to do well in school.”

Competition began within FNSBSD schools on August 20, while the final contest took place on August 29. Given the time frame, not many games were able to be played during that span. Lathrop High School Activities Coordinator Steve Zanazzo says many of their student-athletes were grateful for that limited action, rather than sulking in the fact that there are no games at the moment.

“They’re so happy, just talking to some of the athletes, they are like, ‘if our season ends now because we are in this high-risk and we don’t see any end of going it down, then we are happy, at least we got to play a game or two,’" he said. "We want these athletes to start competing again, not just practicing.”

As the Fairbanks school district continues to function in the red zone, Monroe Catholic, a private school that operates outside of the district, is also in a similar situation. Although they are not restricted by FNSBSD, if there are no teams to play, they too must make the most of their time together without any competition. This is something Monroe prepared for; a season in which no other schools in the area would be able to compete. No matter the decisions from the school district, Monroe was adamant about allowing their student-athletes to stay engaged in sports.

“Both physically and mentally, I think it’s extraordinarily impactful,” said Monroe Activities Coordinator Frank Ostanik on athletics. “The value is so great that even if we couldn’t compete, we would want to provide our student-athletes the opportunity to gather, play, practice, develop skill and do so with their peers and friends and stay healthy.

“They understand there is not a game on the horizon in the immediate future, but just the smiles on their faces and enjoyment that is visible when they are playing makes every bit of that worthwhile.”

Delta High School, of the Delta/Greely School District, did not participate in any sporting events while FNSBSD was competing.

Copyright 2020 KTVF. All rights reserved.

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