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Parkview girls basketball coach Chad Smith, left, instructs senior Sidda Meyers during a practice Monday.

JANESVILLE

On Thursday, Kevin Murray and his fellow Janesville School Board commissioners gave winter high school sports the go-ahead, with a slight postponement, after much discussion and razor-thin margins of voting.

“At least the kids, in the end,” Murray said, “starting Dec. 1 will play some games if we can get there.”

Those last five words in particular have been echoing louder and louder since Thursday.

On Friday, Janesville Craig High announced it would pivot to virtual learning at least through Thanksgiving. That meant the Cougars athletic programs were suspended, and they would not have been able to get the necessary practices in to start by Dec. 1.

Some area high schoolers, including some at Janesville Parker, officially began their winter sports practices Monday. But their seasons hang in the balance after the county health department announced Monday its move back to Phase 1 of its COVID-19 reopening plan.

The county’s memo said, “Public and private gatherings, festivals, carnivals, fairs, concerts, parades, and contact/team sports should not take place.”

The Janesville School Board announced later Monday it will hold a special meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the district’s next steps. District officials would not confirm if winter sports would be part of the discussion, but the meeting’s agenda will be posted Tuesday.

Milton, Edgerton and Evansville, which had approved moving ahead with winter high school sports after postponing the fall seasons, also all announced special school board meetings this week.

“It’s a roller coaster of emotions. I can’t imagine what a 15- to 17-year-old student-athlete is going through in 2020,” one area winter sports head coach told The Gazette. “After Rock County went back to Phase 1, I think that was the last nail in the coffin (for winter sports).”

The county’s announcement of the regression to Phase 1 came on the same day as the WIAA’s first official date to start practice for girls basketball, boys and girls hockey and gymnastics.

The Janesville Bluebirds, the co-op boys hockey team that includes players from both Parker and Craig, got its practices started—but for Parker players only. Because Craig suspended in-person learning and pivoted to virtual, the Craig players could not practice.

“So we had seven kids,” Bluebirds head coach John Mauermann said. “And right now you can split them up and work in groups of four. So we had groups of three or four and were able to do some things.

“The kids were good about it, and we had a good workout. Whatever it is in our lives right now, we’ve just got to make the best of the situation. We were on the ice with the guys, trying to help them out and just not complain about it.

“And then we just continue to plan like our season is going to get started one of these days.”

Mauermann might as well have included Murray’s caveat from four long days earlier:

If we can get there.

Jets games still on for now

The Janesville Jets practiced Monday and are still set to host Kenai River in a North American Hockey League series Friday and Saturday at the Janesville Ice Arena.

“We had an hour-long Zoom call with the city ... and they’ve got their own protocols they’re following and walked us through their triggers to potentially go to a no-fans situation or the harshest trigger, no games,” Jets president, founder and managing partner Bill McCoshen said. “We’re not at either point, based on that conversation. So games are going to go on this weekend against Kenai unless something changes.”

Attendance at the ice arena has been capped at 220 fans for Jets games. They are all season-ticket holders who sit in socially distanced pods throughout the bleachers.

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