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Long wait is over for winter sports athletes in Canton – The Collinsville Press
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Long wait is over for winter sports athletes in Canton

Spectators are few and masks are mandatory. But the athletic teams at Canton High are back in action this winter. Canton’s Jenna Cunikowski , left, Windsor Locks’ Carly MacDougald and Samantha Yanke (3) chase down a loose ball in a game last week.

By GRACE BILODEAU
Special to The Collinsville Press

CANTON, Feb. 15, 2020 – The long wait is over and the competition has begun.

Athletes playing on most Canton High winter sports teams are back in action. The beginning of the high school winter sports was delayed in November thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and concerns about spreading the contagious disease.

In January, the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (CIAC) approved their modified winter sports plan. Athletes in the boys and girls basketball program, the co-op boys and girls ice hockey teams, Unified Sports program, indoor track and wrestling have been practicing since mid-January.

The CIAC is allowing sports to be played under certain conditions, including the use of masks during practice and games for basketball and ice hockey for the athletes and by everyone in the gym or rink. Practice for wrestling is limited to conditioning and non-contact drills. There will be no competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Athletes are required to self-screen themselves before attending practices and games. Spectators at home games have been limited to college recruiters, approved media, and two family members per athlete. No spectators from visiting schools are allowed.

Canton’s indoor track teams have begun practicing but they probably won’t compete until March if the weather allows and outdoor events can be scheduled. The concern is regarding the large number of athletes compete at indoor events. The indoor track season is virtually all large, multi-school events.

Similar to what occurred in the fall, competition will be restricted to regional schools to limit the potential for spreading the coronavirus. Teams will play up to 12 regular season games with a post-season experience (March 15-28).

There will be no CIAC state tournaments this winter. The CIAC decided to give individual leagues enough time to host league tournaments. In the fall, the post-season experience was limited to additional games against the regional teams you had already played.

Senior Emma Gallant played games this fall on Canton’s girls soccer team where she was a captain. Now, as a member of the indoor track team, she practices and hopes for an opportunity to compete.

“I am a little nervous about how it’s going to play out just because there will be no indoor meets or anything so it will definitely be different,” Gallant said.

After sitting out the fall with football being cancelled, senior Colin Mackin is thrilled to be playing with the boys basketball team.

Mackin is hopeful that he and his teammates would be able to play all 12 games and have a state tournament to make up for the canceled tournament last year. Canton was the No. 1 seed in the CIAC’s Division IV tournament before the abrupt cancellation of school and sports back in March thanks to the pandemic.

“Just the ability to play our senior season means a lot to every senior in the state,” Mackin said.

Kim Church, Canton’s Athletic Director, is hopeful about the current season.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and coaches are our top priority going into every season and we everyone for their cooperation in this difficult time by following these new safety protocols,” Church said.

She said that Canton sports will continue to follow CIAC guidelines and provide the athletes with a safe space to play the sports they love.

“Canton appreciates the CIAC for allowing the opportunity for athletes to participate in interscholastic athletics in a safe way. I look forward to a safe and successful winter season,” Church said.

Since 2009, the Collinsville Press has been providing award-winning coverage of sports and news in the Farmington Valley and across Connecticut.

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