TRI-CITY AREA — The competitive start of the upcoming winter high school season for most sports has been put on hold again.

Three more non-contact winter sports were allowed to restart their practices last Saturday per the updated epidemic order announced last Wednesday by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, while four remaining winter contact sports may begin indoor practices last Saturday with non-contact activities.

Imlay City’s Abigail Thibodeau drives to the hoop during a game last winter.

Girls’ gymnastics, girls’ swimming and diving and girls’ and boys’ bowling may also begin competition before the end of this month, swimming and diving January 22 and gymnastics and bowling January 25. Masks will be required off all participants except when actively participating in gymnastics and swimming and diving. Spectators will be capped at 100 persons and in school gyms or 250 in stadiums, per MDHHS orders.

Basketball, competitive cheer, ice hockey and wrestling are considered contact sports and may begin non-contact practices as of last Saturday, with their first competitions scheduled for February 1. Because of the later start to competitions in those sports, the MHSAA will adjust its tournament dates to conclude on later dates than what is currently scheduled. Those dates will be announced later.

Girls’ and boys’ skiing, as an outdoor non-contact sport, was allowed to begin in December.

“We are glad to have three more sports join skiing in returning to full activity, but we understand the full disappointment on the part of our athletes and coaches whose sports are not yet ready to restart completely,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “We will continue to adjust schedules to provide all of our winter teams as possible as part of greater plan this school year to play all three seasons to conclusion,” he noted.

“We have shown with our three remaining fall sports this month that our schools can participate safely and we’re confident teams will continue take all the appropriate precautions as we jump back into winter activities.”

Additionally, spring sports teams and fall teams not participating in the MDHHS rapid testing may begin four-player workouts and resume conditioning as of last Saturday, but only with non-contact activities. Fall teams finishing their seasons in girls’ volleyball, Lower Peninsula girls’ swimming and diving and football have been able to do so by taking part in the MDHHS rapid testing pilot program for COVID-19. Volleyball and swimming and diving concluded their finals this past weekend, while football will finish January 22-23 with 11-player finals.

Kevin Kissane has been covering high school sports for the Tri-City Times since 1985. When not standing on a field or court with his camera and notepad, he enjoys golf, travel and family. Kevin is a 1980 graduate of Capac High School, and is also a grad of St. Clair Community College and earned a degree in journalism from Central Michigan University.