Two weeks after mandating a controversial COVID testing policy for all high school soccer players and wrestlers, the state’s athletic board reversed its decision, thereby freeing up local school districts to set their own regular season policies without jeopardizing their teams’ ability to compete in state championships.
Previously, on April 12, the Alaska School Activities Association, a nonprofit which oversees all high school state championships, approved a policy that required weekly or bi-weekly COVID testing for non-vaccinated soccer players and wrestlers. If a local school district failed to adhere to the policy, that would have disqualified their athletes from vying for a state title.
On April 26, the ASAA board unanimously decided to reverse course, choosing instead to abide by the local COVID protocols established in cities that host state championships. As nearly all championships are held in Anchorage, ASAA will now abide by whatever testing and masking requirements the municipality has in place.
This means school districts across the state are now free to drop weekly COVID tests during their regular seasons. If Anchorage still has testing and mask requirements, teams will need to abide by those only when competing for a state championship.
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The upcoming state soccer, volleyball, wrestling and track and field championships are all scheduled to occur in Anchorage this May.
Under the most current Anchorage COVID orders, the following mandates still apply for all state championship tournaments.
- All groups participating in indoor activities in shared spaces shall keep 20 feet separation between other groups with no mixing of participants.
- All participants must keep six feet separation when not competing.
- All wrestlers must take a pre-competition COVID tests before competing in the state championship unless they have contracted COVID within 90 days of competition or have been deemed “fully vaccinated” from COVID. Anchorage does not require soccer, volleyball or track and field athletes to take these COVID tests.
- Participants in all other outdoor sports, such as track and field, must keep six feet separation when not competing.
During its April 26 meeting, the ASAA board also decided to nix its prohibition against wrestlers shaking hands before thier match.
Billy Strickland, the executive director of ASAA, told board members that he had received “kind of a lot of questions on that one,” and he recommended changing the rule to allow pre-match handshakes.
The ASAA board also rescinded its requirement that all track and field equipment and surfaces be cleaned after each athlete. The new policy proscribes that a cleaning done once before competition begins.