POLK COUNTY — Leaves have fallen, the trick-or-treating is done, clocks have been turned back, and now it’s time to get back to basketball, wrestling, swimming, cheer and dance.
High schools began official winter sports practices on Monday. Coaches and athletes are back to a much more normal state of things and routine compared to what everyone had to go through last season.
The winter sports season in 2020 was short and out of sync.
“It was crazy, kind of like a summer league,” Dallas boys basketball coach Jordan Sollman said. “We had three games a week and barely practiced. It was a season riddled with COVID, injuries and kids leaving for summer vacations.”
Wrestling experienced many of the same out-of-the-ordinary things basketball did last season. The pandemic led to lower turnouts, generally.
“I’ve grown the program from 13 wrestlers to taking 13-plus to district,” Dallas wrestling coach Tony Olliff said. “Last year, we finished with only 13 (on the team). I’m sure some of that was a result of COVID and me not having daily interaction with the kids.
“We didn’t do too well as a team last year, and I’m hoping to get it going again.”
Central High wrestling coach Arnold Garcia said wrestling outdoors instead of inside last season was “kind of cool, but really different.”
Because the high school sports seasons were so condensed, “we barely had time to get ready and then only six weeks to compete,” Garcia recalled.
Swimming was much different than a usual season as well. There was no Oregon School Activities Association-sponsored state championships, and no district meets.
“I think we started in late April and went into June,” Dallas swimming coach Sean Condon said. “The kids only had like a week and a half to prepare for their first meet, and the meets were a little abbreviated.”
“We had to make a lot of changes last season,” Central swimming coach Jesse Genualdi said. “I think it was better than not having a season, though. And because we finished in late June, we have less of a turnaround going into this season. I’m curious to see how that’s going to turn out.”
COVID-19 concerns continue to have an effect on prep sports, of course, and more so with the indoor sports.
The OSAA is continuing its policies from fall sports, still under guidance from state officials. Everyone at a winter sports event must wear a mask, except for the student-athletes and officials who are participating on the court, mat, etc., reports Peter Weber, OSAA executive director.
Students on the bench are required to wear masks, Weber said, as are coaches, event management and spectators.
Masks are required for outdoor events for spectators if they are not able to maintain six feet of distance from others who live outside of their household.
The first day for winter sports competition is Wednesday, Dec. 1.
Central’s boys basketball team will waste no time. The Panthers will tip off their season on Dec. 1 at home against Benson, then play host to Cascade on Dec. 3.
The West Salem boys have a jamboree at Sherwood (with Sherwood and Grant) booked for Dec. 1, and the Titans’ first game is Dec. 3 at home against Centennial.
Dallas boys basketball will open Dec. 2 at Bend, then play in the two-day Crook County Tip-Off Classic at Crook County High in Prineville Dec. 3-4.
The Dragons also have scheduled games at Moda Center, the Portland home of the Trail Blazers. The girls will play Mountain View of Vancouver, Washington at 10 a.m., and the boys will face McMinnville at 11:30 a.m., both on Dec. 11.
The Central boys will be on the basketball road a lot early in the season. They’ll play preseason games at Ridgeview, Philomath and Tigard, and then comes a Dec. 28-30 tournament in Bend, the Oregon Holiday Hoopfest.
The first of 16 Class 5A Mid-Willamette Conference boys basketball games for Dallas and Central is against each other on Dec. 21 at Dallas.
West Salem opens its Class 6A Mountain Valley Conference season Jan. 11 at home against Liberty.
In girls basketball, Dallas is at Tillamook on Dec. 2 to start the 2021-22 season. The next game is at Dallas on Dec. 7 against McKay. The Dallas girls are entered in the Dec. 18-19 Cascade Holiday Classic at Cascade High, then will jump into MWC play Dec. 21 at Central.
Central’s girls play Dec. 1 at North Eugene, then are home Dec. 3 versus Cascade.
The West Salem girls will hoop it up Dec. 1 at home against Sunset, have a Dec. 18 game with Sheldon at Moda Center and start MVC play Jan. 11 at home against McKay.
In Class 1A, Perrydale’s boys and girls basketball teams will enjoy their first three games at home, beginning with a Dec. 2 visit from Alsea.
Falls City opens at Eddyville Charter on Dec. 1, then goes to Open Door Christian Academy on Dec. 2. The Mountaineers’ home debut is Dec. 4 against Riddle.
The Casco League season begins for Perrydale on Dec. 9 at home against Willamette Valley Christian.
Falls City and Perrydale will meet in boys and girls basketball at Perrydale on Dec. 30.
In wrestling, Dallas will compete Dec. 1 at Lebanon in the 12-team Weisbrodt Invitational.
Central opens with a dual meet at home against Silverton on Dec. 2.
The Dallas-Central dual is Dec. 8 at Dallas.
West Salem will open its wrestling season Dec. 3 at the Kirk Morey Invitational, an eight-team affair hosted by Reynolds.
Falls City athletes have the option to wrestle with Willamina this season as part of Class 3A Special District 2.
The swim season starts Dec. 2 at North Salem in a four-team MWC meet that includes Dallas, Central, Silverton and the host Vikings.
West Salem swimmers will be in the water Dec. 2 at Kroc Center, joining McKay, host McNary, South Salem and Sprague.