VHSL Adopts Plan

‘Championships+1’ Format Has Shortened Seasons, Fewer State Qualifiers

The Virginia High School League Executive Committee voted on Thursday to unanimously approve the “Championships+1” schedule for athletics and activities in the 2020-21 school year.

The league had previously announced a draft of the Condensed Interscholastic Plan on Aug. 24, with each team playing about 60 percent of its normal regular season. After pushing the special Zoom video conference session meeting back two weeks from Sept. 3 to allow more time for feedback from athletic directors and coaches, the Executive Committee made it official with a 33-0 vote in favor of the schedule on Thursday. In July, sports were pushed back until December due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the new plan, winter sports – basketball, indoor track and field, swimming and wrestling – will begin practices on Dec. 7, and the first contests will be held on Dec. 21 and the final contest on Feb. 20. Sideline cheerleading has been moved to this season also.

Fall sports – football, golf, volleyball, cross country and competition cheerleading – will start practicing on Feb. 4, with March 4 as the first contest date and May 1 as the final date for competition. Spring sports – baseball, softball, soccer, tennis, lacrosse and outdoor track and field – will start practicing on April 12, with April 26 as the first competition and June 26 as the final contest.

In a statement made after Thursday’s meeting, VHSL Executive Director Dr. John W. “Billy” Haun said, “We have received invaluable input from our school communities, parents, and students who say the physical and mental health benefits of getting our students back to a level of participation is extremely important.” The Championships + 1 schedule will provide sports in all three seasons.

Every sport will hold a state tournament, but only one team from each region will qualify. The venue for those state title games will also be different from past years. Instead of large venues in neutral locations, the game will be hosted by the team at the top of the bracket or a qualified facility in its geographic area.

With sports like cross country, indoor track and field, swimming and wrestling, fewer individuals will qualify for the state meet. One significant change from last month’s plan was made on Thursday. Two cross country teams and the top three individual finishers outside of those teams from each regional meet will advance to the state meet. The previous plan had one team and five individuals advancing. Last year, three teams and five individuals advanced.

Wrestling will have an eightperson bracket in a one-day state tournament, rather than two days, indoor track and field will advance only the top three regional finishers to the state meet, swimming will take only the top four regional finishers, and golf would only send one team and three individuals outside of that team in each region.

“The VHSL Executive Committee acknowledges that no plan is perfect,” said Haun. “We are in unprecedented times in which we have been forced to create a temporary new normal. We understand this plan, or any plan, will not meet the expectations for those wanting a normal fall, winter, and spring sports season. This plan, however, will allow student-athletes and academic activity participants the opportunity of having a season and playing for a state championship.”

Reacting to the news, new Rockbridge County High School athletic director Mike Gale said making this plan official will give the Wildcats a chance to iron out their schedules. “Some of our sports have a completed schedule, while we have a ways to go in some others,” Gale said. “We still have to finalize some details within our district and region as well. All we can do now is plan and hope we can get our athletes competing again in a safe manner.”

Parry McCluer High School athletic director Mike Cartolaro said the Fighting Blues’ football schedule is complete, and the athletic department is working on schedules for other sports. He is hoping that PM and RC can play each other at least once in several sports, including basketball if the annual Rock the Ribbon Roundball Shootout, an American Cancer Society fundraiser that included 11 games this past January, is approved.

The VHSL Executive Committee will meet again today at 9 a.m. in a Zoom video conference. The agenda includes addressing concerns from the public, as well as planned venues for state championships. A group of parents and other citizens staged a “Let Them Play” rally on Monday of last week in Richmond.

In response, the VHSL issued the following statement: “We fully understand and support the passion of high school sports from our school communities, parents, and students. From day one, we have been committed to getting our students participating in activities safely and responsibly. There has been a tremendous amount of input and cooperation from principals, superintendents, activity directors, coaches, and members of various communities. The VHSL and its member schools have worked tirelessly over the past several months to create a plan for our students to participate in VHSL-sponsored athletics and activities.”

The News-Gazette

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