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By Zach Cavanagh

Under a regularly scheduled high school sports calendar, football state championships would have been handed out this weekend, and the basketball tournament season would be well underway.

Under the previously announced, coronavirus-altered high school sports calendar, boys volleyball was scheduled to start its season over the weekend, and football practice was to start on Monday, Dec. 14.

Under the current high school sports calendar, start dates are again uncertain, and even the endless days of drills and workouts are scheduled to take a break for the holidays.

On Dec. 1, the CIF State office announced a hold on all full practice and competition start dates, as updated state guidance for a return to play for youth and high school sports remains delayed and isn’t expected until after Jan. 1, 2021.

“These are decisions way above us,” San Clemente athletic director Jon Hamro said. “The governor is the highest (state) office, and they’re giving guidance, or lack of guidance. The last guidance was August 3, and that’s still in play. COVID is increasing across the state and country. In our area, we’re in a better place, but still (the state guidance is) something that we’re subject to.”

San Clemente High School and all others in the state are still operating off that Aug. 3 state guidance, which allowed for the resumption of youth sports workouts, conditioning and physical education with proper physical distancing. After the shutdown of school sports in mid-March and a start-stop of camps in the summer due to county guidance and counteracting state guidance, that was the first and, so far, last state guidance in that sector.

Since then, San Clemente and all Capistrano Unified School District athletic programs started conditioning camps on Aug. 18. The camps started with a small and limited Phase 1, but the programs worked up into a Phase 2 and have been in a Phase 3 since Oct. 26. Phase 3 involves much larger groups and the sharing of equipment, including the passing of a ball within a stable pod of players.

Even after athletics programs break next week for finals testing and the holidays and return in the new year, Phase 3 is where all of these programs will stay until they are given the go-ahead by the state. Hamro said they’re still thankful to be in their Phase 3, and that any next phase would be the two-week ramp-up of full practice to the start of a season.

“We can only control what we can control,” Hamro said, “and that’s adhering to the guidelines and staying positive. We’re continuing to adapt and prepare into the future. We’ll exhaust all opportunities until the last possible moment. We’ll still continue to hold out until the last possible moment.”

Hamro said that coaches, other local athletic directors and officials within the CIF-Southern Section are all trying to work through to get the most they can out of these seasons when they’re given the green light. With last week’s CIF State announcement, the state and regional fall sports championships were canceled, which gives the CIF-SS room to push back its playoffs and give teams as much run-up room as possible to squeeze in a competitive season.

“We’re looking into all options of trying to find a way to create opportunities for our athletes to compete,” Hamro said. “We’re hard at work, thinking outside the box, so that we’re prepared for whenever we get guidance, we’re prepared to pivot. We’re certainly not just waiting for guidance; we‘re being proactive.”

Even if eventual state guidance doesn’t give the immediate go-ahead to return to play, Hamro said they’re simply looking to be given the pathway, whether what they’re able to do is tied to the state’s coronavirus color-coded tier system or otherwise.

Hamro said San Clemente High School has taken this all seriously, and when given the sign, the Tritons are ready to go.

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