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Summer conditioning still on hold for area high schools

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On Friday, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted restrictions on all youth sports, effective immediately. The decision allows travel teams in baseball and softball and Amateur Athletic Union teams in basketball, among others, to start scheduling games and tournaments during the critical summer months when most aspiring college athletes gain the most exposure. 

RELATED: Spring sports could interfere with travel ball if they resume

But the announcement does not mean high school athletic programs have the green light to start summer conditioning. 

At the high school level, summer conditioning, which mostly involves weight lifting and running for football and volleyball players, takes place in the two months before practice officially begins in late July (that date could be subject to change this year because of the coronavirus pandemic).

The Florida High School Athletic Association does not regulate those workouts other than providing guidelines on paperwork and equipment issues. The rest is left up to the school districts and private schools in each county to decide.

FHSAA public relations specialist Ashton Moseley said there is no update regarding when practices and regular seasons will take place for fall sports.

Allowing districts and private schools to set conditioning schedules creates some disparity. Calvary Christian, for example, plans to start its summer program on June 8. Clearwater Central Catholic administrators have discussed holding workouts within the next two weeks.

Public schools in area counties such as Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas are not starting before June 15. 

Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett has met with coaches, trainers and risk management officials to formulate safety guidelines for public schools to follow such as social distancing when workouts begin.

The target date for Pasco and Pinellas is July 1, nearly a month after some private schools. Even then, workouts will likely be conducted in phases with conditioning held strictly outdoors at first before allowing any weight lifting on school grounds.   

Clearwater football coach Don Mesick has a schedule full of private teams early in the season. The Tornadoes face Calvary Christian in a preseason contest, as well as Palm Bay Heritage, Jesuit and Clearwater Central Catholic within the first six weeks.

“This really puts us at a disadvantage, especially if we’re starting nearly a month later than some of those teams,” Mesick said. “The FHSAA really needs to have a uniform policy where everyone starts at the same time in the summer.”

Those conditioning sessions will be far different than years past. No locker room access. Temperatures taken upon arrival. Water stations restricted to filling up bottles provided by players. 

Other measures are being discussed to create social distancing. Armwood is even contemplating setting up weight training equipment outside and splitting the sessions into small groups. 

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Baseball

No more fans at Pasco County sporting events after COVID spike

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Stock football stadium

Pasco County has decided to limit all athletic activities to students and coaches due to the recent spike in coronavirus cases. 

That means no fans or media members in attendance. 

The new rule starts on Monday and will last until the positivity rate, which has climbed to nine percent, drops to below five percent for a rolling seven-day period. 

In the past two weeks, two county football teams — Wiregrass Ranch and Fivay — had to forfeit playoff games because of a player testing positive for coronavirus and multiple team members and coaches having to quarantine due to contact tracing. 

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Coronavirus

COVID case ends Osceola’s volleyball season

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Osceola, which made the Class 5A region finals in volleyball last season, had to forfeit Monday’s district quarterfinal match because its entire junior varsity and varsity teams are quarantining after a player tested positive for the coronavirus on Sept. 25, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett said.  

By forfeiting, the Warriors ended their season. They were ranked fifth in the state in Class 5A and were expected to go on another deep playoff run.

“We have to follow what the health officials tell us,” Bennett said. “It’s tough because Osceola is one of our best volleyball teams in the county. I talked to the Florida High School Athletic Association and they said there were plenty of other teams around the state in the same situation.”

Under CDC and Pinellas County health department guidelines, any student athlete who tests positive must be quarantined, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15-minute duration without any face covering. Osceola’s quarantine ends on Oct. 19, a week after the district tournament.. 

All the players have currently tested negative, including the one who was originally positive. But the quarantine did not end. The Warriors also had to postpone their appearance in the Pinellas County Athletic Conference championship game. That title game against St. Petersburg will be made up once the Green Devils’ season ends. 

“It’s heartbreaking for the seniors to have their season end this way, but we’re really excited for the chance to play the PCAC Final at home for senior night as our last match of the season, against our toughest competition, St Petersburg,” Osceola coach Ashley Martin said.”It will feel like a state championship since a trophy is involved.”    

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Coronavirus

PHU cancels season opener after a football player tests positive for coronavirus

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Palm Harbor University’s season opener against rival East Lake this Friday has been cancelled after a Hurricanes player tested positive for coronavirus, Pinellas County athletic director Al Bennett confirmed in a text message.

It was unclear how many PHU players are currently under quarantine. According to CDC and county health department guidelines, a player who tests positive must quarantine, as well as anyone who comes within six feet for more than a 15 minute duration with a face covering.

The Hurricanes next game is scheduled for Sept. 17 at Wharton. Bennett said the school is looking into moving that game to Saturday or Monday to avoid another cancellation.

The Eagles will now host Sarasota Riverview in Friday’s opener.

This is the fourth area football program that had to cancel its season opener after having a player test positive for the virus.

Hillsborough and Jefferson, which were supposed to play on Friday, both have players under quarantine. Their opponents, Chamberlain and Gaither, are now kicking off the regular season against each other.

Zephyrhills is in a similar situation and had to cancel its first two games.

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