The PCHS student section cheers for the volleyball team at an NIAA regional playoff game hosted by Pershing County  last year.
The PCHS student section cheers for the volleyball team at an NIAA regional playoff game hosted by Pershing County last year.

The NIAA just broke some hearts, but all is not lost. 

They also held out a ray of hope. On July 23, they released updates to the 2020-21 high school sports season. 

With luck, the Mustangs will rise again in January 2021, starting with six weeks of basketball and wrestling.

The NIAA moved the fall lineup of football, volleyball and soccer to February. April brings the spring sports - track, baseball and softball.

A couple of weeks of practice precedes each sport’s six-week season. Football gets an additional week of training.

Playoffs will be part of the six competitive weeks at the discretion of the individual regions. There will be no state championships. 

“I know a lot of people won’t agree with the NIAA decision,” said Mike Brooks, Pershing County High School’s athletic director, football and wrestling coach. “People will disagree with any decision, but at the end of the day, that’s what we have, so that’s what we’ll go with.”

Although the update did not mention the spirit squad, Brooks assumes the NIAA will allow them to cheer for the football and basketball teams. 

Another up-and-coming club, the Winter Guard, is not governed by the NIAA.

“Fall sports were on the brink of complete cancellation, so it’s great they’ll get some competition,” Brooks added. “The school year will be exciting once sports begin. It will move quickly. The kids will know it’s short and savor every moment, hopefully.”

He acknowledged the fluidity of a situation not in his hands.

“Who knows?” he asked. “It’s possible by the time the new year comes we still aren’t cleared to compete.”

The National Federation of State High School Associations considers full-contact sports like football and wrestling as high-risk for spreading the coronavirus. 

Basketball presents a moderate risk. If Nevada is still under Phase 2 restrictions, some sports may not launch.

Under Phase 2 restrictions, attendance must not exceed 50 people, including players, officials, coaches and spectators.

Historically, the PCHS student section sometimes packs twice that number onto the bleachers.

According to guidelines from the NFHS, if a team member tests positive, the entire team may need to be quarantined. Like schools across the nation, PCSD has planned for periodic closures in response to flare-ups of the virus.

However, the players hope for the best. Dalton McNeff, a senior, wants to run track and play basketball. 

“I’m upset about the seasons being cut short, but happy we still get to play,” he said. “The shortened season can be rough, especially with the big changes we’re making to the basketball team this year. Not only are we bringing up new players from the middle school, but we’re bringing in a new head coach (Jesse Canchola). The short season could make it tough to build chemistry and work on plays.”

McNeff is disappointed by the cancellation of the state championship games. “I’m going to play as much as I can though,” he said.

Monica Halverson, the volleyball coach, wants to make sure her girls are in shape if their season starts as planned in Feb. 2021.

She has them doing virtual workouts three times a week. Recently, she began meeting the players on the track bi-weekly for summer conditioning. They wear masks, bring their own water bottles and practice social distancing.

“Summer conditioning will be in place until school starts. Then we will have a new plan to help you stay active until February, when we hopefully have our volleyball season,” she told them. 

Some sports families worry about Nevada’s temperamental weather. They’re hopeful games don’t get canceled due to icy roads and soggy fields.

“We’ll keep our fingers crossed that we can play the full six-weeks,” said Halverson.

According to coach Brooks, it’s not too soon to start thinking about 2021. The players must sign up on My Athlete, an online system that organizes and manages high school athletic registration. They’ll need to arrange their sports physicals. 

“They’ll also have to engage in the classroom because the same rules apply with the grading system,” he said. “Eligibility requirements stay the same.”

To compete, students must maintain passing grades. Typically, Pershing’s athletes excel academically, with many landing on the honor roll.

“Kids have a chance to buy into their programs and improve a lot over the next few months before the beginning of their seasons,” said Brooks.

Winter season sports (basketball, wrestling)

• Practice starts Sat., Jan. 2, 2021

First contest may take place Fri., Jan. 15

• Last contest – Sat., Feb. 20

Fall season sports (football, volleyball, girls soccer)

• Practice starts Sat., Feb. 20 (except for football)

• Practice starts Sat., Feb. 13 (football)

• First contest – Fri., Mar. 5

• Last contest – Sat., Apr. 10

Spring season sports (softball, baseball, track)

• Practice starts Sat., Apr. 3

• First contest – Fri., Apr. 16

• Last contest – Sat., May 22

The NFHS organizes high school sports into lower, moderate and higher risk of spreading the coronavirus. Here’s how Pershing’s sports stack up:

• Lower risk: individual running events, throwing events, sideline cheer

• Moderate risk: baseball, volleyball, baseball, softball, soccer, pole vault, high jump, long jump

• Higher risk: wrestling, football