WESTFIELD, NJ — Winter is coming for high school sports, but most student athletes will have to wait until 2021 for action — including in this town where players are coming off of a shortened season of fall sports due to a spate of COVID-19 cases.

The NJSIAA, New Jersey’s governing body for interscholastic sports, announced the pushback of all winter sports and the cancellation of all formal winter sports tournaments early Thursday morning following the recommendation of the organization’s Sports Advisory Task Force.

“It was a smart move because we’d like to preserve any type of season that we possibly can have,” said Sandy Mamary, the athletic director at Westfield High School. “And I believe a shortened season is better season than not having any season at all.”

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Under the new plan, ice hockey, basketball, fencing and bowling are pushed back to January, with ice hockey practice starting in December due to contractual obligations with rinks. Swimming and winter track & field will begin in February. None of these sports will have a state-sponsored post-season tournament. Post-season competition will instead be sanctioned by leagues conferences, at their own discretion.

“We remain keenly focused on providing New Jersey’s student athletes with the opportunity to participate in sports, and given current health data and modeling, we believe pushing the schedules back ensures the best opportunity for our kids,” said Colleen Maguire, the NJSIAA’s COO, in a news release. “The staggered winter schedule is based on feedback from health officials, anticipated capacity limitations as well as the availability of facilities which are used by many of our winter sports.”

Wrestling, gymnastics and girls volleyball will start in March. According to the NJSIAA, a decision on state-sanctioned post-season tournaments for these sports is still being debated.

Additionally, the NJSIAA said spring sports, which were completely canceled in 2020, will start in late spring and will “most likely” go through June.

The delayed start for winter athletics in comes amid a rise in COVID-19 cases across New Jersey, including in Westfield, where 23 cases among high school students caused the district to cancel in-person learning and high school athletics Nov. 8 through Thanksgiving, effectively cutting short the fall season of athletics.

Mamary noted that the delay of winter sports applies not just to Westfield and said it will help to create a safe environment for the athletes.

“It’s just a smart decision and it gives us enough time to get this virus under some control so that we can compete and compete safely,” Mamary said.

Email Matt Kadosh at mkadosh@tapinto.net | Twitter: @MattKadosh

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