Barring any setbacks, spring high school sports athletes should expect an almost normal postseason.
On Wednesday and Thursday the PIAA and District 3 board of directors laid out more details about the 2021 spring postseason, with the biggest takeaway being that both bodies expect the championship fields to return to the setup used before the coronavirus pandemic.
The PIAA and District 3 have maintained a message of wanting to provide as close to a complete season as they can for spring sports, which never got off the ground a year ago when the coronavirus pandemic shut down all athletics for months.
The fall and winter postseasons were condensed because of COVID-19, but the intent in the coming months is to have a mostly normal spring championships season.
The news comes as Pennsylvania draws closer to opening vaccinations to all adults by April 19. Gov. Tom Wolf said the vaccine is “winning” this week, but cases have largely flattened or risen slightly since a sizable drop in cases in February.
There will be a few changes in store, and possibly more as the postseason draws closer and the district and PIAA have a better grasp on how COVID-19 will impact the tournaments.
The most notable change announced this week is the setup for the PIAA Track and Field Championships. They will still run over a Friday and Saturday — May 28-29 — but Class 2A will be exclusively on Friday and 3A exclusively on Saturday. Only the sprint events will have preliminary heats this year.
That decision was made to make it easier for the PIAA to have spectators at host Shippensburg’s Seth Grove Stadium, which can only accommodate 5,000 people — including fans, athletes, officials and staff — during the current capacity limits set by the state.
District 3, on the other hand, doesn’t foresee an issue staying inside that capacity limit and will run its track and field championships at SU the same as years prior — with 2A and 3A athletes competing both days concurrently.
The state championships in baseball, softball, lacrosse, boys tennis and boys volleyball will feature 16-team fields as in prior years, a shift after the PIAA shrank the winter and fall postseason tournaments to district champions in most cases because of capacity limits during the pandemic.
On Thursday, District 3 laid out its tournament plans, which include:
- Baseball: Freeze date May 6, power rankings deadline May 20, tournament begins May 24, higher seeds host through semis, championships at neutral sites.
- Softball: Freeze date May 6, power rankings deadline May 20, tournament begins May 25, higher seeds host through semis, planning for championships at neutral sites.
- Lacrosse: Freeze date April 29, power rankings deadline May 13, boys tournament begins May 17, girls tournament begins May 18, higher seeds host through semis, championships at Landis Field.
- Track and field: May 21-22 at Shippensburg U with full participation like in prior years.
- Boys volleyball: Freeze date April 30, power rankings deadline May 14, higher seeds host through finals, will coordinate with host sites for number of spectators allowed.
- Team boys tennis: Freeze date April 14, power rankings deadline April 28, will be hosted at RCW Athletic Club and Hershey Racquet Club, $100 team entry fee, 15 tickets per team tourney event, as of now, face coverings will be required indoors.
- Singles/doubles boys tennis: Will be hosted at Hershey Racquet Club and RCW Athletic Club, $25 entry fee for singles, $35 for doubles entry fee, as of now, face coverings will be required indoors, two tickets per athlete in singles/doubles
The PIAA will explore changing when the basketball state championships begin for the 2021-22 season. Currently, the first rounds are held on Friday and Saturday. The organization is exploring changing that to Tuesday and Wednesday, which would leave the semis for the following Friday and Saturday to help with long-distance travel. More discussion will be had in the summer.
District 3 basketball chairman Dave Bitting said Thursday he supported a motion to have more discussion at a later date because he doesn’t believe it hurts to talk, and he thinks the impact on District 3 teams would be minimal. Currently, D3 teams advancing to states have nearly two weeks off before states begin.
Email Jake Adams at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jakeadams520