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Wasn’t easy, but fall sports hit finish line

Commentary

Remarkably, the fall scholastic sports season in the area has been completed.

Unlike years past when certain team or individual accolades stood out, just getting to the finish line is the accomplishment that will be most remembered.

Throughout the summer, it was unclear whether local student athletes would even get to start a season, and finishing it and actually completing state playoffs seemed impossible.

But with the PIAA football championships set to wrap up this weekend, unfortunately without any representation from District 5 or 6, everyone made it.

There were certainly hiccups along the way.

Glendale’s girls volleyball team had to forfeit out of the playoffs after an excellent regular season. Southern Huntingdon and Mount Union had to bow out of the District 6 Class 2A football playoffs, and in the Rockets’ case, that forfeit to Cambria Heights was their only loss of the season. And the Altoona girls were simply given District 6 soccer medals when they probably would have much rather earned them on the field when Mifflin County was forced to forfeit.

There were cases, quarantines and shutdowns but most teams got through it and even Southern Huntingdon got back out on the field for another victory after forfeiting its postseason game.

Fortunately, as far as we know, there were no tragedies as a result of playing in the area. No one reported any cases of teams passing COVID-19 on the field or court and causing mass outbreaks, and no dire health situations as a result of playing have surfaced.

There were, however, documented stories of how playing this season impacted communities.

Bedford enjoyed one of its best fall sports seasons in school history with the football team and girls soccer team both qualifying for the PIAA semifinals. Philipsburg-Osceola got to enjoy the parades and celebrations that accompany a runner-up finish in the state championship when its girls volleyball team rode freshman phenom Reese Hazelton all the way to the PIAA championship match.

Altoona celebrated its first District 6 football title in 18 years. Northern Bedford avenged a tough loss to Tussey Mountain to regain the District 5 Class 1A crown.

Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic did not get to go back to Hershey and win the state football title it felt slipped through its fingers last season, but it wasn’t because the season wasn’t held, which would have left the Marauders wondering what could have been forever.

Now, as we approach the winter sports season, almost no teams in District 6 have started practices, which the PIAA gave the green light to start last Friday. The select few that have will likely have scheduling issues once they are eligible to play following the 15-practice minimum that ends on Dec. 11.

Many of these programs have been shut down due to schools being switched to fully remote, and their safety plans do not allow for sports to happen during remote learning. But others have been shut down due to league mandates handed down from conferences like the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference and Inter-County Conference.

The safety plans of each individual school seemed to work well in the fall and got us through the entire season. The PIAA is encouraging schools to begin winter practice if they can, and many schools across the state are doing just that.

That’s why it’s odd to me that it’s so different in our area. Sports will always be secondary to safety, and if a school is having issues, sports should be shut down. But I’m not sure it makes sense for the LHAC to ban winter practices last Friday and Saturday while two teams from its conference were still actually playing high school football.

Michael Boytim can be reached at mboytim@altoonamirror.com. Follow him on Twitter @BoytimMichael

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