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 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.
(1) Three Peat — Junior Dylan Hayman drove for two during the 2019-20 boys basketball season. The Greyhounds continued a remarkable run of success under veteran coach Yasha Mokaram, capturing their third straight league title with a perfect 10-0 record in the NBL Redwood Division. The Hounds went on to defeat Maria Carrillo, 54-39 to win the league tournament, earning the sixth seed in the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs. Healdsburg opened the NCS tourney with a 55-32 rout over No. 11 Ygnacio Valley, but dropped a 53-50 heartbreaker at No. 3 St. Mary’s in the quarterfinals to end the season at 25-4. Team members included Hayman, seniors Dewey Widick, Phil Helfrick, Xzavier Vasquez, Willem Ridder, Sam Norgrove, Avery Billman, Clay Lazzaretto and Brian Garcia, junior Chase Sommer, sophomore Graham McDonald and freshman Gavin Vogensen.
(2) Winning season — Four-year senior basketball star Hannah Webb looked for an opening in a league game against El Molino in January. Head coach Steve Zichichi led the Lady Greyhounds to an overall record of 21-8 during the 2019-20 girls hoops campaign, finishing up a solid North Bay League season by shocking top seeded Maria Carrillo, 47-31 to capture their first league tourney title since 2004. The Lady Hounds went on to land the ninth seed in the North Coast Section Division 4 playoffs, eventually falling at No. 8 St. Bernard’s in Eureka. Team standouts were Webb, seniors Kimberly Rodgers, Aleah Molina, Alondra Ruiz and Estephany Calvo, junior Sophia Pickering, sophomores Katy Conrad and Gracee Barker and freshmen Itzel Ortiz, Theresa Helfrick and Maddie Wagner. Webb joined an elite group when she eclipsed the 1,000 point scoring mark in her career.
(3) Tough on the mat — The 10-man Healdsburg contingent gathered at the North Coast Section Wrestling Championships in Union City in February. Led by veteran coaches Scott Weidemier and Mike Sutton, the Greyhounds finished up a strong 2019-20 campaign, boasting several league medalists and eight NCS qualifiers. Team standouts included seniors Dillon Dunkel and Kevin Trebilcock, juniors Aiden Bernard, Jesse Graves and Dalton Ortiz, sophomore Jesus “Chuy” Anguiano and emerging freshmen Cameron Pippi and Anthony Francis.
(5) College bound — Healdsburg High School senior baseballer Hunter Irons was flanked by parents Will and Brigid Irons at a college signing ceremony at Recreation Park in November. Irons, an all league catcher for the Greyhounds and widely regarded among the top players in the North Bay League, signed a letter of intent to attend Upper Iowa University on an athletic scholarship. A first-team all-league selection his freshman and sophomore year, Irons saw his junior campaign cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and school closure. The talented “five tool player” is a local product to the core, honing his skills in the Healdsburg Little League.