R2 delays sports practice indefinitely

COLUMBIA – The fall prep sports season in Blythewood took a blow Saturday when Richland District 2 delayed the start of athletics practices indefinitely because of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases across the state.

“The decision was a difficult one to make because we know how much our students, coaches, band directors and JRTOC instructors want to begin practicing,” a statement from Richland District 2 read. “However, in light of the increase in positive cases, we felt delaying the start of practice was the safest course of action.”

Blythewood, Westwood, Ridge View, Spring Valley and Richland Northeast had been set to open summer practices for fall sports on Monday, under the guidance outlined in the South Carolina High School League’s three-phased approach.

The postponement puts the timeline to return to the football field in question, but with the seriousness of the global pandemic spread in South Carolina over the past month, sports of any kind takes a back seat to safety, Westwood head football coach Matt Quinn said.

“We’re obviously disappointed that we can’t be with our kids, but at the same time I understand the reason and why we need to hold off,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s about the kids, so I 100-percent agree with the district.”

The High School League’s 3-step plan, “Guidelines for Return to Play/Practice Team Sports,” is available on the SCHSL.org website. The plan currently is frontloaded at the first step, with specific guidelines on sanitation of equipment, handwashing, separation, group size, in addition to the usual safety precautions taken when running practices. Steps two and three have not yet been fleshed out.  

Covid cases in South Carolina shot up from the 200-per-day range three weeks ago, topping off at 1,599 cases reported last Saturday. Daily infections reported have been over 1,000 nine times since June 18.

The football season is set to begin Aug. 20. Blythewood plays host to Fairfield Central Aug. 21. Ridge View plays Westwood that night.

In the meantime, teams in District 2 as well as other districts are going to err on the side of caution, and take the challenges of preparing for the fall season in stride.

“We’re going to try to keep the kids working at home, we’re going to keep doing Zoom meetings and position meetings,” Quinn said. “We’re sending them homework that they can do on their own at home. Hopefully we can get through this together and have some semblance of a football season.”