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Sports calendar adjusted as precaution against coronavirus

Varsity athletic competition will resume next month for LCPS high schools as the district brings its sports calendar in line with North Carolina High School Athletic Association recommendations, flipping some fall and winter sports seasons as a precaution during the coronavirus pandemic.

Basketball coach kneels on the sidelines as he watcher players run by. All high school athletes in the district got the green light to begin voluntary workouts under social-distanced conditions earlier this month, as the district made plans to allow face-to-face instruction, and organized practices for volleyball and cross-country teams are scheduled to begin Nov. 9, with their seasons to start Nov. 16.

The high school football season, usually the harbinger of a new school year and the crown jewel of fall sports, is scheduled to run Feb. 26-April 9 – shortened to seven games plus four weeks of state playoffs, which are to begin April 16.

Assistant Superintendent Nicholas Harvey II, who serves as district athletic director, says even a scrambled sports calendar is better than none at all. “Any possibility of having interscholastic activities is a win for our student athletes, our parents and our schools,” Harvey said. “Lenoir County Public Schools is grateful to the state association for its guidance during these uncertain times and to our county school board for its role in bringing athletics back.”

The three LCPS high schools that offer athletics – Kinston, North Lenoir and South Lenoir – field teams in up to 14 different sports for male and female students. While no particular sport is expected to be completely sidelined – barring a downturn in public health metrics – the number of games, matches or meets for all sports are considerably reduced.

Here are the season schedules for LCPS athletics in addition to volleyball, cross-country and football, including the start date for practice and number of regular-season contests:

Basketball – Jan. 4-Feb. 19 (14 games); practice starts Dec. 7

A high school male kicks a soccer ball as three others watch. Men’s soccer – Jan. 25-March 12 (14 matches); practice starts Jan. 11

Men’s and women’s golf, men’s tennis, women’s soccer and softball – March 15 -April 30 (14 contests); practice starts March 1

Baseball, women’s tennis, track and field and wrestling – April 26-June 11 (14 contests), practice begins April 12.

Cheerleading begins with the basketball season and continues into football.

“Our student athletes in all sports are grateful for the opportunity to compete,” Kinston High football coach Ryan Gieselman said. “We believe it’s a step in the right direction in restoring some sort of normalcy for our student-athletes.” 

Athletics at the district’s five middle schools are scheduled to begin with basketball games the week of Jan. 11. Football and volleyball games are to begin the week of Feb. 22. Baseball, softball, soccer and track seasons are scheduled to begin the week of April 12.

Photo captions:

Basketball players at Kinston High get some court time Monday as coach Perry Tyndall watches. As of Oct. 5, LCPS greenlighted voluntary workouts for varsity athletes in preparation for sports seasons that, because of the coronavirus pandemic, are shorter and bear little resemblance to traditional athletic calendars.

North Lenoir High School soccer players get together for an informal workout Tuesday, looking far ahead to a season that doesn’t begin until late January instead of their usual fall schedule.