Janesville hoopsters, swimmers, gymnasts, skaters and grapplers got good news Wednesday night.
Winter sports are a go!
Despite both Janesville Craig and Janesville Parker pivoting to distance learning Nov. 30, the Janesville School Board voted 6-3 to allow competitions beginning Dec. 1 for boys and girls basketball, gymnastics, boys hockey, wrestling and boys swim.
While many area districts are not allowing a winter sports season due to virtual or distance learning, Janesville bucked the trend and that brought a big sigh of relief to a number of student-athletes, coaches and concerned parents.
Parker began practicing Monday for girls basketball, boys hockey and gymnastics and can continue to do so without any interruptions.
Craig went virtual this week and was not slated to start practice until Nov. 30, but with Wednesday night’s decision, can begin practice today.
“All the girls wanted to do was play, and now they’ll get the chance,” Craig girls basketball coach Kerry Storbakken said. “They’ve worked their tails off all summer and were ready to go Monday, but we couldn’t start.
“I’m especially happy for our seniors, who didn’t know if they’d even have a season.
“Now, we just have to fill out our schedule. We’ve lost some nonconference games already due to some schools going virtual and not having winter sports.”
Wednesday’s school board meeting gave the majority of members a chance to weigh in on a winter sports season.
Kevin Murray was one of the six that voted in favor of the proposal.
“Other districts are proving that this can be done,” Murray said of allowing sports to be played. “Athletics serve a great purpose and are good for the community’s health.”
Fellow member Cathy Myers was on the opposite end of the spectrum.
“I want to see us get back to face-to-face learning across the board first,” Myers said.
Practices are currently being held under Tier 2 of the Rock County Health Department’s COVID-19 guidelines. No more than four athletes can practice together in the same area. That will change when competitions begin on Dec. 1, with basketball having 10 players on the court and hockey 12 on the ice.
Janesville Parker girls basketball coach Jennah Hartwig was ecstatic with board’s decision, especially for her team.
“This small bit of normalcy in their lives is so important,” Hartwig said. “As a coach and as a parent of a senior athlete and college athlete, having the opportunity to participate in their sport has given all the students motivation again to perform in the classroom and other areas of their lives.
“It has been difficult this week attempting to learn any type of offense or team defense with only four players to a basket when five will be playing at the same time on the court, but at least we get to try and figure out a way.
“I’d like to personally thank the board for allowing us the opportunity to make it work.”
The board also voted 6-3 to allow each athlete to have two spectators at each home event, along with clearance for members of the media—radio and newspaper.
Because of close confinements for competitions in gymnastic and swim meets, it’s likely that athletes won’t be allowed two spectators each at home meets.
As fluid as the pandemic continues to be, nothing is a given, but Janesville Bluebirds coach John Mauermann said it’s better than the alternative.
“It gives us a chance to try,” Mauermann said. “That’s better than just heading to the basement!”