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 canceled 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 the 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 continue to roll out this month, hope remains high that the new year will 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.

2019 HSGW: NVGC: FINALS

150lbs\r1st Place Match\rHannah Ricioli (El Molino High School) 5-0, Jr. over Chrissy Wallace (Selma High School) 16-3, Sr. (Fall 1:48)

(1a) Going to the mat — El Molino junior wrestler Hannah Ricioli etched her name in the sports history books at the prestigious California Interscholastic Federation State Wrestling Championships in February, becoming the first Lion’s wrestler to earn a second place medal. Ricioli’s medal came on the heels of capturing both league and North Coast Section 152-pound titles, capping a great season for the NBL Redwood Division champion Lady Lions. Other team standouts for the ladies were emerging freshman Hayden Fields and sophomore Lily Maruffo.

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(1b) Emerging star — Analy sophomore Sakiko Pizzorno also enjoyed an outstanding 2019-20 campaign, winning the league title in the 139-pound weight class in February, while 118-pound teammate Sabrina Hall took home a second-place NBL medal. Pizzorno went on to earn a fifth place medal at the NCS tournament. Photos by Brian Sinigiani and Michael Lucid

(2) Clash of rivals — Analy’s Armando Parra (No. 5) battled with El Molino’s Jacob Cibrian (No. 7) in the Lions’s exciting, 3-2 victory over the visiting Tigers in February. The win completed a season sweep for El Molino. The Lions enjoyed their most successful campaign in years under coach Dave Rosales during the 2019-20 campaign, finishing up with an overall record of 5-8-3. Other standouts included Yhosmar Martinez and Jackson Dunkle.

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The Analy boys (14-6-1) also had a strong season under veteran coach Peter Meechan, finishing in second place in the North Bay League before landing the No. 11 seed in the NCS playoffs. Also turning in outstanding seasons were Ben Neargarder and Kelly Janssen. Photo by Lynn Cibrian

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(3a) Wrestlers claim medals — No. 1 seeded El Molino junior Erik Dimond was in command at the NBL finals en route to a first place medal in the 154-pound weight class to earn a trip to the NCS meet in February. Also stamping his ticket to NCS with a league medal was 147-pound El Mo sophomore Zavier Grech. 160-pound freshman Curby Dimond just missed an NCS bid, taking sixth place in league. Photo by Michael Lucid

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(3b) Analy junior Zach Fogg (top) controlled an opponent in the 128-pound weight class. Under head coach Francisco Manriquez, the Analy wrestling team boasted a pair of NCS qualifiers for their boys wrestling team in the 2019-20 season. NBL medalists included Fogg (5th place) and 184-pound junior Max Voelkel (4th place). The Tiger’s other NCS hopeful, 154-pound Lorenzo Robles, suffered an injury and was forced to pull out of the NBL tourney. Photo by Michelle Carreras

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(4a) On the pitch — Analy’s four-year veteran Macee Wacholz (No. 20) fought for possession in a pre-season soccer clash with Casa Grande. The 2019-20 winter campaign was a good one for the Lady Tigers (5-10-4) under head coach Brian Heacock, battling with the area’s best in the NBL Oak Division before landing a spot in the NCS playoffs. Analy finished the season with a hard-fought 1-0 loss at No. 2 seeded Acalanes. Other top players included Kaija Bazzano, Luna McCullough, Isabella Galbraith, Deja Burry, Maisy Butler, Aramara Garcia, Hope English and Carolina Dawson. Photo by Greg Clementi

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(4b) El Molino’s Kiara Garcia-Lopez (No. 2) went on the attack in a varsity soccer match at Healdsburg in January. Under the watchful eye of coach Emily Farrant, the Lady Lions (6-4, 6-10) closed out the NBL Redwood Division with a critical win over Piner to earn a spot in the NCS Division 4 playoffs. Other team leaders were Grace St. Marie, Kendra Rivas, Rose McCormick, Santia Depoala, Payton Tamayo, Natalie Alberigi, Carma Wilson, Siena Montel and Ariela Tapia.  Photo by Michael Lucid

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(5a, 5b) Swan songs — Analy and El Molino senior hoops veterans Kevin Wagner (No. 31) and Logan Woolsey (No. 15) played their final league games in February to wrap up the 2019-20 basketball season.

Under head coach Collin Walker, the Lions were competitive all season despite an overall record of 3-23. Other standouts included Pat Atkinson, Saben Atteberry and Trenton Rivas.  Photo by Michael Lucid

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The Tigers turned in a competitive 2019-20 basketball campaign under coach Jason Carpenter, weathering a tough NBL Oak Division schedule before finishing up with a respectable 9-17 overall record. Other top scorers for the Flying Tigers were Sage Boek, Antonio Sanchez and Tenzing Sherab. Photo by Michael Lucid

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(6a, 6b) Emerging stars — El Molino sophomore Ellie Roan (No. 5) and Analy freshman Maya Salas (No. 10) were among the top underclassman in the North Bay League Redwood and Oak Divisions during the 2019-20 basketball season.

Led by veteran coach Keith Nordby, the Lions fielded a young and talented line-up, earning a spot in the NBL and North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs, finishing up with a 14-11 record. Other top players were Talia Husary, Angelina Gonnella, Hailee Walker and Skylar Westover.

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Analy was equally strong competing in the NBL Oak Division under coach Raquel Gomes, finishing in second place to land a spot in both the NBL tourney and NCS Division 3 playoffs in February. The Tigers advanced to the quarterfinals with a win over No. 11 Encinal in the NCS opener before being eliminated at No. 2 San Marin to end the season at 18-10. Other team leaders were Lucca Lowenberg, Ellie Bengs, Maycee Hunter, Samantha Davis and Chloe Fernandez. Photos Michael Lucid and Scott Gibson, courtesy of Gibson Sports Photography

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