Easthampton, Belchertown step back from most competitive winter sports; Amherst moves forward

Sports Editor
Published: 12/8/2020 9:03:08 PM

Easthampton and Belchertown took a step back from competitive winter sports Tuesday.

Both school committees determined that swimming could participate on a competitive level and that basketball could only practice.

Easthampton will only allow its ice hockey team to practice, while there will be no ice hockey this winter in Belchertown.

The announcements come during a week when most high schools will learn the fate of their winter sports during an ever-changing pandemic.

With the start of winter sports almost a month away, a lot could still change. Gov. Charlie Baker rolled the state back to phase 3, step 1 on Monday. The current Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs guidelines for sports were based on phase 3, step 2. The MIAA board of directors is scheduled to meet Wednesday morning and will likely discuss the move.

Easthampton announced Tuesday that only EHS students are eligible for winter sports. The school typically welcomes swimmers and hockey players from Hampshire Regional and hockey players from Northampton through cooperative agreements.

However, Easthampton is not offering co-ops this year due to the pandemic. That means that Hampshire Regional and Northampton students will not be able to participate in any type of activities with Easthampton teams.

The Hampshire Regional School Committee approved alpine skiing and Nordic skiing for its students Monday night. Mohawk Trail Regional is the host school for Hampshire’s Nordic skiers. Its school committee is meeting Wednesday. A Hampshire vote on basketball was tabled until next Monday pending more information.

Hopkins Academy voted on Monday to proceed with basketball, boys and girls hockey, and swimming. The school has co-ops with Pope Francis for girls hockey, and Amherst Regional for boys hockey and swimming.

The Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee approved all winter sports sanctioned by the MIAA with a 5-1 vote on Tuesday. The Hurricanes will sponsor boys and girls basketball, boys and girls hockey, alpine skiing, Nordic skiing and swimming and diving. Girls hockey is co-op with Pope Francis.

Hockey was not originally recommended to the committee, but the members decided that they couldn’t say it was markedly more dangerous than the other “high risk” sport, basketball.

“There’s nothing about them that signals one is more high risk than the other,” committee chair Allison McDonald said.

McDonald, Peter Demling, Sarabess Kenney, Bethany Seeger and Stephen Sullivan voted yes. Kerry Spitzer voted no. Heather Hala Lord and Ben Harrington abstained, and Margaret Stancer recused herself before the discussion.

“The trends and all of the data I’m seeing are not going the way we want them to,” Spitzer said. “If we do want to prioritize in-person learning throughout the state we should be cautious in other areas.”

Holyoke will offer basketball and swimming as long as the city is no longer classified by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health metrics as being in red status for COVID-19 cases. The city needs to return to yellow status for three weeks in order to have sports next month, according to a message on the school’s website.

Pope Francis will offer basketball, boys and girls ice hockey, and alpine skiing.

The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School in Hadley will offer varsity sports in basketball, alpine skiing and girls ice hockey through a cooperative with Longmeadow.

The school committees for Frontier Regional, Northampton, Smith Academy and Smith Vocational will meet on Thursday.

Gateway Regional will meet on Wednesday.

The Granby School Committee discussed winter sports at its Dec. 1 meeting, but did not vote. It will meet again within the next two weeks.

The South Hadley School Committee will take on the topic at Monday’s meeting.

The winter season officially begins Jan. 4 for all sports except indoor track and wrestling. Indoor track was moved to the Fall II season, which will be held after winter and before the spring. Wrestling was moved to the spring.

Staff writer Kyle Grabowski contributed to this report.




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