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High School Fall Sports Season Kicks Off Saturday, Talks on Live Crowds Ongoing

By Tiffany DeMasters
October 14, 2021, 3:26 PM HST
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Officials hope to have live crowds back for student-athletes as they return to the field after nearly two years of no high school sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Big Island Interscholastic Federation, comprised of the island’s public and private schools, will kick off its fall season with football games on Saturday, Oct. 16. In the following days, girls volleyball, cross country, bowling and air rifling will begin.

“It’s a long-time coming and student-athletes have been looking forward to this day,” said Hilo High School Athletics Director Kaeo Drummondo.

Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy and Hilo High School scrimmaged for the first time in nearly two years on Oct. 9, 2021. (PC: HPA Facebook Page)

As of now, live spectators are not allowed to watch the games. However, Drummondo said at the moment things are fluid, and plans may change.

Sporting events at school campuses are left under the guidance of the Hawaiʻi Department of Education (HIDOE). Hawaiʻi County spokesman Cyrus Johnasen said they are currently meeting with administrators to discuss live spectators during the fall sporting events.

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“Ideally, we will be able to work with DOE to issue some guidance sometime tomorrow (Friday, Oct. 15),” Johnasen said. “We understand the importance of sports for both our keiki and their parents, and we are doing all we can to ensure that the county is not a roadblock in allowing that to happen.”

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While the return of sports has been exciting, Drummondo said, administrators have been working in new territory as they navigate how to ensure games continue while abiding by COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Like other leagues in the state, BIIF has seen a downturn in student-athlete participation. Drummondo attributes this to multiple factors, one of which is HIDOE’s vaccine mandate issued in August.

HIDOE now requires all student-athletes to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or to submit to weekly testing. Because they haven’t been playing for almost two years, Drummondo also thinks students have found other things to do.

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“You can only coach those who are there and make it fun and safe,” Drummondo said, adding that those students who are back for sports are excited.

“I’m looking forward to seeing our kids on their respective fields of play and getting family and friends back in the stands,” the athletic director said.

Hawaiʻi Preparatory Academy Athletics Director Stephen Perry said student-athletes have been “chomping at the bit” to get back to their sports.

Perry said HPA has been fortunate to have their students for in-person instruction for the past year.

“They’ve been active every day, especially with all the mask-wearing and restrictions,” he said, adding they’ve already had football scrimmages against Kamehameha High School and Hilo High.

While HPA hasn’t seen a downturn in student-athlete participation, Perry said, he knows those numbers are low throughout the island.

“Cross country is down across the board, which is unfortunate,” he said. “It may take a year or so to build everything back.”

Perry said there’s been a lot of movement over the last 24 hours in regards to bringing spectators back.

“I just hope we can get our act together quickly,” he said.

With the delay in the start of sports, seasons are a couple of weeks shorter and there will be an overlap between fall and winter games. The first state championship will be cross country at HPA in December.

Perry is hopeful they’ll have all the leagues here represented.

“Everyone’s excited and hope everything goes well,” Perry said. “It’ll be great to see the kids back out there.”

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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