By Mike Zummo
It went from the possibility of there not being a season to having to put together a season very quickly.
Valley Central was first and would have been ready to go when authorization kicked in on Feb. 1, but two snow days pushed them back to a Wednesday start.
Then, the other dominoes started to fall as Pine Bush gave its approval for varsity, basketball, and wrestling to begin last Thursday, and then last Thursday, the Wallkill Central School District Board of Education approved a resolution to begin basketball.
“We’re just happy that Orange County and the state and everyone was on the same page,” Valley Central boys’ basketball coach Frank Nutt said. “Everyone did a good job getting this off the ground.”
Valley Central players must wear masks at all times, and their temperatures are taken at the door. They distance in the gym and they don’t use the locker room as they come ready to practice. Even their bags are spaced six feet apart in the gym.
While the Vikings were set to go on all three levels, Pine Bush approved basketball and wrestling on a varsity-level only.
Bushmen athletes must complete a daily health screen survey for athletics before noon on the day of each practice or game and teams are assigned specific entrances and exits to their practice locations. Like Valley Central, there are temperature checks and health screening surveys and athletes need to arrive dressed for participation.
Wallkill got the latest start out of anyone.
The Panthers finally got their approval last Thursday night at a special Board of Education meeting, and registration opened on Friday. The district scheduled its mandatory informational parent meeting for Monday and the first practices were scheduled for Tuesday.
Only Pine Bush and Valley Central will field wrestling teams, as Wallkill, along with all the Ulster County schools opted out of wrestling.
Section 9 wrestling coordinator Jeff Cuilty said it looks like there will be about 8-10 teams for both Divisions I and II combined out of 29 teams. He said there will most likely be a Section 9 duals bracket and each team will be assigned four dual meets. He said all teams will place first through 10th. The estimated tournament dates will be Feb. 20 and 27.
Cuilty said more information will be available this week.
Some of the approvals were delayed by the recent snowstorm that hit the area on Feb. 1 and all districts had a snow day on Feb. 2. It also delayed the Vikings’ first day of practice by two days.
“Every day is extremely valuable and to lose two days right off the bat is deflating,” Nutt said. “But we’re going to make the most of every minute on the floor. That’s one more minute than I thought we were going to be there. I told the guys we need to value every second and every minute we’re in the gym, and we have to treat it like it’s a gift.”
The players that are now able to get on the court or mat and have at least a portion of a season, are excited to be there.
“Everyone’s incredibly excited, especially some of the older guys,” Nutt said. “There was a level of skepticism when they heard there was a possibility for this. As we drew closer to Friday, our expectations were we wanted to do everything we could to get the guys in the gym.”