BY ANDREW GARDA
The omicron variant of COVID-19 continues to take its toll on high school sports, as Montclair Kimberley Academy paused all sporting events during its first week back after the holiday break.
Both MKA and Montclair High School saw numerous cancellations before and during the break as well.
“School as a whole was remote last week as COVID test results trickled in and we were monitoring the impact of the omicron strand,” MKA Athletics Director Todd Smith wrote in an email Monday, Jan. 10. “Basically our varsity teams have been on a two-plus week break and returned to practice as of last Thursday [Jan. 6].”
MKA returned to competition on Tuesday, Jan. 11, but Smith said the 2021-22 season has been much different from the 2020-21 season in terms of shutdowns both for sports and the school as a whole.
“The omicron strand has definitely had a major impact on our athletes and programs,” Smith said. “The only difference is this year 100% of our Upper School athletes are vaccinated and most have boosters, so if there is a positive case it will not shut down the team as a whole this winter.”
Still, Smith said omicron remains a problem and a concern.
“This will definitely be an ongoing obstacle for our teams and our competitors all winter,” he said.
Schools have also made other adjustments, such as limiting spectators.
“Only two parents [or] caregivers per roster player,” MHS Athletics Director Patrick Scarpello said, adding that he was expecting further guidance from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association on Wednesday, Jan. 12.
While MKA voluntarily took an extra week off, some MHS teams were still dealing with the aftermath of positive COVID tests. The wrestling team, as well as both the boys and girls basketball teams, not only canceled appearances in tournaments over the holidays, but prior to the boys basketball game on Tuesday, Jan. 11, in which MHS lost in overtime to Payne Tech by a score of 49-43, they had yet to play a regular season game in 2022.
Scarpello said in an email on Monday that it takes time and effort to keep up with the shifting situation.
“It is a lot,” he said. “We are doing the best we can. There have been many reasons for cancellations, but we’re hoping it gets better soon.”
Measures such as MKA’s decision to go remote for the first week back after the holiday break and the option for MHS students to go remote for 10 days are intended to help do just that.
Meanwhile, some sports have been able to soldier on at MHS, such as swimming, bowling and fencing, the latter two having matches on Tuesday. The bowlers faced Irvington at Brunswick Zone Belleville Lanes, with both the boys and girls emerging victorious, the boys by a score of 7-0 and the girls by 5-2.
The MHS fencers met Governor Livingston at home in the freshman building, with the boys winning by a score of 20-7 and the girls falling just short, 15-12.
Wednesday saw MHS basketball face Newark East Side at home in its second game in two days, losing 77-50, and the swim team went up against Caldwell. (The results of both contests came after press time). The hockey squad took on Livingston, but the game was rescheduled.*
For MKA, boys basketball got going again Tuesday with a game at home against Nutley, which they lost 54-48, while the girls swim team faced off against Mount St. Dominic Academy, falling 110-59, and the boys lost to Seton Hall Prep, 123-46. Girls fencing picked up Wednesday against Oak Knoll School of the Holy Child on the road (results after press time).
While MHS and MKA have had to fight through COVID issues, Immaculate Conception High School has been able to play relatively unimpeded.
“We’ve been lucky enough to avoid the ever-enduring threat of COVID so far,” ICHS Athletics Director James Risoli wrote in an email Monday. “We have, however, hit a few bumps in the road, but being home and isolating our sports teams over Christmas break helped out immensely.”
Part of the success has been keeping up with daily precautions, according to Risoli.
“I.C. students are masked at all times, teams are isolated with a closed-door policy during practice, and even before the school day or a practice starts students and athletes are temperature-checked,” he said. “On top of that, the ADs in the SEC have been tremendous with their flexibility and work rescheduling and changing games if the need arises.”
The ICHS girls basketball team (5-1) suffered its first loss of the season, a 43-30 game against Archbishop Carroll of Pennsylvania in the BlueStar High School Invitational on Jan. 9, but beat Nutley on Tuesday night, 62-26. Meanwhile, the boys (3-3) lost 59-43 to Ramapo on the road on Jan. 8 but beat Newark Central Tuesday night on the road, 59-47.
*The print edition had the game listed as Glen Rock, which was Tuesday. We apologize for the error.