Pandemic shuts down most sports for last nine months of year

The COVID-19 pandemic was not kind to youth sports in 2020 — in fact it was downright cruel.  

The onset of the virus in March forced most schools to shutter their doors in favor of distance learning, and the spring sports season was abruptly cancelled for thousands of kids across the county.

While high school athletes participated in summer off-season workouts with strict health protocols in place, the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) announced it had revised its sports schedules, delaying the start of the fall season until January while merging the winter and spring 2020-21 seasons.

By September, and with Sonoma County mired in a restrictive purple tier, the prospects for a fall high school sports season were waning.

In December, the California Department of Public Heath issued new guidance using a color-coded system, categorizing youth and adult recreational sports into several tiers. For example, sports categorized as outdoor low contact, including cross country and golf, would be allowed to compete with their county in the purple tier. Outdoor moderate contact sports like baseball and softball would require a county to be classified in the red tier, while outdoor high contact sports such as football and soccer would require their county to be in the orange tier. By year’s end, Sonoma County schools remained closed and fields were eerily quiet. 

While most years are marked by unforgettable games and athletic achievement at the youth level, 2020 will be remembered more for what did not take place.

As COVID vaccines continued to roll out in late December, hope remained high that the new year would restore a sense of normalcy to all aspects of life, including athletics.

Here’s to a happy and healthy 2021.

The following highlights are a reminder that the year had a promising start, albeit a disappointing finish.

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(1) Championship season — Four-year senior Most Valuable Player Tehya Bird (No. 44) battled for ball control in the North Coast Section playoffs in February. The Lady Eagles turned in an historic 2019-20 hoops campaign under long-time coach Rick Berry, capturing their third straight league crown before running the table in the NCS Division 5 playoffs to earn the No. 7 seed in the CIF Nor Cal State Tournament. Cloverdale opened the Nor Cal tourney with a dominant, 62-40 win over visiting Enterprise but saw its season end in the quarterfinals at second-ranked Argonaut, falling 60-49 to finish up 25-3. Along the way, Bird joined an elite group by eclipsing the magical 2,000 point mark for her career. Other team members were seniors Maci Hernandez and Morgan Sceales, juniors Catherine Driver, Alyssa Moffett, Janaye Hammond, Ahnna Randolph and Faith Holloman, and sophomore Summer Lands. Photo by Patty Bird  

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 (2) Drive — Eagle’s guard Andy Herrera (No. 22) drove on a defender in the North Coast Section Division 5 basketball opener in February. The 2019-20 season was a strong one under veteran coach Pat Fitzgerald, battling tooth and nail with Clear Lake before settling for second place with a record of 12-2. The Eagles drew the No. 5 seed in the NCS tournament, falling in a first-round heartbreaker to Redwood Christian, 52-51. Team members were; seniors Chuche Maciel, Spencer Hoover, Shayne Turner, Tyler Ruys, Adrian Gutierrez, juniors Josh Lemley, Logan Axell, Andy Herrera, sophomores Dylan Muller and Joe Faso, and freshmen Kaden Axell and Casey Lemley.  Photo by Scott Gibson, courtesy of Gibson Sports Photography 

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 (3) Historic Campaign — The Cloverdale High School wrestling team, pictured here after the league tournament in February, completed its first season in over 20 years. The Eagles boasted five league medalists and qualified four athletes to the North Coast Section meet. Under the watchful eye of CHS coach Jacob Chinelli, Cloverdale sent four athletes to the North Coast Section meet by virtue of their third place league finish. The list of NCS qualifiers included; 106-pound freshman Ryan Moffett, 113-pound sophomore Kagen Jones, 126-pound freshman Ayal Fichtelberg and 220-pound sophomore Bryan Richards. Other team members were 132-pound sophomore David Alvarez, 138-pound freshman Jose Alcantar (suffered broken arm), 180-pound freshman Abrielle Flick (suffered early season injury) and 285-pound sophomore PJ King (placed 6th at league tourney). Photo provided 

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(4) New Field — Renovations on John Allen Memorial Field at Cloverdale High School were completed in August, transforming the original natural grass digs into a state of the art all-weather turf field and track. The renovations were a silver lining to a disappointing fall, as the COVID-19 pandemic kept the school closed and forced the postponement of the football and soccer seasons. Photo provided

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