Summit High winter sport teams experiencing COVID-related absences but say it’s better than the alternative
As COVID-19 numbers continue to climb throughout the county due to the omicron variant, one area that is starting to be affected is Summit High School sports.
Over the past week, multiple Summit County winter sport coaches have said starting lineups or rosters have had to be adjusted because of athletes contracting COVID-19 or other illnesses.
“I feel like one of my biggest challenges right now is dealing with COVID,” Summit girls swim and dive team head coach Jenny Wischmeyer said. “That is limiting us a little in terms of what we can do.”
Head coach of the Summit boys hockey team, JR Engelbert, expressed a similar sentiment prior to last Saturday’s game against the Mullen Mustangs.
“Every team is dealing with COVID issues, so we’ve got a little different lineup running (against Mullen),” Engelbert said. “It seems like, right now, with the environment, every game is going to be a little bit up in the air based on each team’s individual COVID situations.”
According to Jordan Buller, the head coach of the boys basketball team, he also had to adjust his team’s starting lineup last week when his starting point guard was out with the flu.
Travis Avery, who is the athletic director at Summit High School and oversees the COVID-19 protocols for all of the Summit sports teams, thinks Summit has been fortunate, for the most part, while the omicron virus has continued to spread.
“I think, all and all, we have been pretty fortunate during the winter season and with the indoor sports, including volleyball during the fall,” Avery said. “We haven’t had too many impacts considering the volume of COVID in the community.”
Beyond having some individuals miss some games, no Summit sports teams have had to shut down for an extended period of time or miss competitions, which other high schools in the state have.
Avery also said he talks with Summit County Public Health Department officials on a regular basis and was told that the county is working its way through the peak of the omicron variant wave.
Due to the higher risk of transmission since returning from the holiday break, all Summit sports teams have been in masks for practices and home games.
It is then up to local ordinances at away games to determine whether the team members are required to wear masks in those locations.
“(Summit County Public Health is) hopeful that it will peak relatively soon and be on the down slide, and they can look at moving back to where we were before the holiday period in terms of restrictions,” Avery said.
The current practice of sidelining players from a game or practice is preferred over postponing games or canceling entire seasons, which was the norm not that long ago.
While acknowledging individual choice, Avery said being vaccinated is a major step in preserving the high school sport seasons.
“Then we are really in the position of protecting seasons as a whole and not having to cancel games,” Avery said. “I think people have done that for the most part, and I think that has led us to protect the team and the seasons as a whole.”
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