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Winter sports will start on time
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TOPEKA — A rare snapshot into KSHSAA decision-making delivered a stunning verdict — the Kansas high school winter sports show will go on without an audience.

A virus-plagued Kansas health environment threatened to delay and shorten the winter season seven months after state basketball and spring sports were canceled.

However, the 78-member Kansas State High School Activities Association board of directors offered high school and middle school athletes positive news Tuesday with the opportunity to compete with a full schedule by a resounding 53-22 vote.

The bad news is all the winter sports athletes in basketball, wrestling, bowling and swimming will compete without fans from Dec. 1 until Jan. 28, by a vote of 50-26. An amendment to allow up to two fans per participant was also voted down. 

High school and junior high basketball and wrestling officials across the state just performed a happy dance.

Activities lost some practice days starting in January, but a full schedule will be permitted. 

Basketball — 20 games.

Swimming — 10 competitions.

Boys and girls wrestling — 18 events and  30 competitions points.

Bowling — 10 competitions.

Winter activity competition can start Dec. 1 and continue through Dec. 22. 

A winter moratorium for high school and middle school practice and competition (no practice and no competition) runs from Dec. 23 to Jan. 3. Practice may resume Jan. 4 and competition may resume Jan. 8. 

The BOD will require non participants (coaches, support staff and game workers) to wear a face covering in the manner it is intended to be worn while at the event venue. Exceptions are provided for athletes when they are competing and officials during active play.

The KSHSAA board ignored medical evidence led by Dr. David Smith, team physician of the Kansas City Royals, who said he's never witnessed more patients hospitalized due to the coronavirus.

"This is not ending soon. I recommend holding off on competition until January 15," Dr. Smith said.

Bill Faflick, KSHSAA executive director, provided an overview of the dire health conditions. The KSHSAA sports advisory committee developed guidelines.

"The transmission rate is higher in every county. The climate has changed," Faflick said. "There is plenty of emotion and data on both sides. We want to have activities when it's appropriate. There must be policies and recommendations that everyone follows."

Several people spoke in behalf of starting winter sports on time.

Eudora's Jayla Pierce said, "We need sports. Some of my best memories are from sports. I want to leave on a good note." 

Chanute's Kellen Adams said community spread was a higher risk factor than highly supervised athletes competing.

"Keep your focus on students first," Adams said. "You want to minimize risk, but we cannot lose faith."

Louisburg's Craig Holtzen said allowing students to compete was a logical decision.

"(KSHSAA) is a student-centered organization," Holtzen said. "Let them play. You are giving away people's choice."