As the Santa Clara Valley Athletic League and its 14 public schools – including Los Altos and Mountain View highs – prepares to embark on its own three-season sports schedule next week, the area’s private schools are taking a different path to playing.
St. Francis High and Pinewood School are part of alliances – the West Catholic Athletic League and West Bay Athletic League, respectively – that intend to follow the Central Coast Section’s two-season
“We explored all our options and in the last hour, like most leagues, we chose to stay (with the CCS plan),” WCAL commissioner Jolene Fugate said. “Part of the reason is that, unlike leagues like the SCVAL, we have schools in three counties, and they can’t compete against each other.”
A state directive that essentially says teams can’t travel farther than the next county to compete led the WCAL to split its league into two divisions on the boys’ and girls’ sides.
The St. Francis boys are in the South with rival Bellarmine, Mitty and Valley Christian, all located in Santa Clara County. Serra of San Mateo County has been placed in the North with the league’s three San Francisco schools.
The St. Francis girls are part of a South Division that includes Mitty, Valley Christian and Presentation, which is also within the county.
“At this point, we are just looking to play anyone,” St. Francis athletic director Michael Pilawski said. “So, though wishing we could play the whole league, (we) understand the guidelines and are happy to play who we can.”
Not all of St. Francis’ girls teams compete in the WCAL, Pilawski noted. The field hockey and gymnastics squads are in the SCVAL and the lacrosse team plays in the WBAL, and they will continue to abide by those calendars.
Remaining as one
The WBAL, which covers two counties, has chosen to keep its 12-school league intact and follow the CCS schedule – for the most part.
“It’s a little different for boys and girls tennis,” Pinewood athletic director Matt Stimson said. “They’re still in Season 2, but the girls’ season will go from Feb. 22 through April 9, and the boys will play from April 5 through May 14. We did that for facilities reasons and because most coaches (in the league) coach both teams.”
Pinewood and St. Francis kick off CCS Season 1 with cross-country; teams began practicing Feb. 1 and can hold meets as soon as next week.
In search of sites
Pilawski said the Lancers’ first meet is set for Feb. 27. Just don’t expect them to be racing at standard spots such as Crystal Springs, Baylands Park or Golden Gate Park anytime soon. At least not while the pandemic is raging.
“We’ve reached out to all three of them, and they’ve all said no,” Fugate said. “We also reached out to private golf courses to see if we could run on their cart paths – they said no. And we asked junior colleges if we could run in their parking lots and were told no. All signs are pointing to on-campus races, but we’ll take that over virtual ones.”
At Pinewood, though, there are concerns about holding races on school grounds. Stimson, who coaches the cross-country team, said the Panthers “hope to get a few meets in,” but safety comes first.
“We don’t even allow parents on campus right now,” said Stimson, whose school permits students to attend in-person classes twice a week and participate in sports training four days per week. “Then you have to open bathrooms. And the hardest part is not knowing what other schools are doing as far as testing. If someone gets COVID, it all falls apart. There are a lot of unknowns.”
Tracking the tiers
As cross-country ramped up practice last week at Pinewood, the football and girls volleyball teams continued conditioning, according to Stimson. While those two sports are also part of CCS Season 1, they can only be played when the county falls into the “moderate” (orange) tier of COVID-19 – two lower than its current “widespread” (purple) tier.
Water polo, a sport that St. Francis but not Pinewood offers, is also an orange-tier sport in Season 1. The Lancers have a greater chance of playing field hockey, allowed in the “severe” (red) tier.
“March 15 is the cancel date,” Fugate said, referring to Season 1 sports. “If we’re not in red by then, we’ll for sure have to cancel the orange sports.”
CCS Season 2 – comprising baseball, basketball, soccer, softball, tennis, track, lacrosse, swimming, golf, wrestling, gymnastics and badminton – is slated to start as early as March 8.