MHS gives winter sports the green light to begin competing

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Middleton athletic director Jamie Sims was integral in allowing winter sports to begin competing outside of the county immediately./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

It’s go time!

That was the message from Middleton athletic director Jamie Sims late Monday night, announcing that competitions for winter sports would begin immediately.

Sims, the Cardinals’ first-year A.D., and Superintendent Dana Monogue were given authority to make the decision regarding the fate of winter sports. And after extensive research and numerous positive developments across the state, the duo gave winter sports the green light to begin.

“There was no road map for this,” Monogue said Tuesday. “We heard from a lot of people and respected everyone’s opinions on the subject.

“We know that extracurricular activities affect mental health and physical health, and we wanted to do everything possible to bring those back in a safe manner. We feel we have the safety protocols in place to do this the right way. I have nothing but absolute trust in our leaders and we will do this the right way.”

As expected, the news sent a wave of excitement through the entire athletic department.

“I’m excited for the kids and families that are at least given the option to compete,” Middleton wrestling coach Kent Weiler said. “I am also excited for the kids that just want to use this time to get into the wrestling room and train for the future and their personal well-being. It gives everyone the choice and an option to decide for themselves what is in their own personal best interest.”

Middleton hockey coach Dan Truehl agreed.

“I am absolutely thrilled with the administration’s decision to allow MHS winter sports to compete outside of the county,” Truehl said. “They did their due diligence and have put together an excellent plan that allows for competition while keeping the student athletes as safe as possible.

“Our kids have remained patient and optimistic and I am so glad that they will have the opportunity to put on the Cardinals sweater and play the game that they love. Now we all must do our part by staying disciplined and being safe so that we don’t squander this opportunity.”

Middleton offers boys and girls basketball, boys and girls hockey, girls gymnastics, boys wrestling and boys swimming in the winter.

Middleton’s last sporting event came on March 7, 2020, when its girls basketball team defeated Madison Memorial in a WIAA Division 1 sectional final to qualify for the state tournament.

In the 10 months since, the WIAA canceled the boys and girls state basketball tournaments due to COVID-19 concerns. The WIAA also canceled all spring sports in April.

In July, the WIAA gave schools the option of playing fall sports during their regular spot on the calendar, or delaying the start of those sports until spring. Middleton chose the latter and pushed fall sports to the spring.

Due to stringent Dane County guidelines, winter sports competitions at Middleton remained on hold until Monday. Sims and Monogue knew that time was ticking fast on winter sports and gave the Cardinals’ the OK to begin competing outside the county immediately.

Swimming sectionals will be held on Jan. 29, wrestling regionals begin on Jan. 30 and hockey regionals start on Feb. 2. Regionals for girls basketball start on Feb. 9, boys basketball regionals begin Feb. 16 and gymnastics sectionals start on Feb. 18.

That means Middleton should be able to play a handful of games or meets in most sports to prepare for the fast-approaching postseason.

“Whatever we are able put together we will be grateful for and will give great effort,” Middleton boys basketball coach Kevin Bavery said. “Our first game will likely be against someone who has 10 games under their belt, but none of that matters.

“This is about giving the best experience we can give to the most amount of kids in the roughly three-week window we'll have open now before the start of the WIAA tournament. That's hard to imagine, but it would have been harder without any opportunity.”

Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind agreed with Bavery.

“Obviously we welcome the opportunity to compete,” Kind said. “We are scrambling to try to schedule games in this short window. It’s a complex situation. There are many incongruities to deal with, but we will do what we can to keep our players safe and still allow them to compete.”

The overwhelming majority of the state began winter sports in November. And while there have been occasional hiccups, things have gone off swimmingly.

Things have been far more restrictive inside of Dane County, though.

Public Health Madison & Dane County approved indoor gatherings of up to 10 people in mid-December, with physical distancing and face coverings. That allowed several county schools to resume small-group practices, and some Middleton sports have been operating that way. That order did not allow games and meets within the county, though.

That order expired Wednesday, and local health officials announced that restrictions would remain quite stringent. While Dane County will allow outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people that are socially distanced, indoor gatherings still couldn’t exceed 10 people.

When that news broke, Middleton’s leaders knew winter sports were on life support.

“We were hoping the Dane County restrictions wouldn’t be so stringent,” Sims said. “So when we saw what the new order was going to look like, we knew we had to act.”  

In recent weeks, several Dane County schools such as Verona, Waunakee, Monona Grove, DeForest, Oregon, Mount Horeb, Stoughton, McFarland, Wisconsin Heights, Belleville and Deerfield all voted to begin playing competitions outside of the county. On Sunday, Sun Prairie also made the decision to begin playing outside the county.

That left the four Madison schools and Middleton as the only Dane County schools not playing competitions. On Monday night, though, Middleton joined the party and gave its winter sports teams the chance to have a season.

“I have great appreciation for our school board and our administration, particularly Jamie Sims and his athletic department staff,” Bavery said. "From day one we’ve said as long as any opportunities can be ‘safe and meaningful’ we are in.”

Now, the Cardinals are all-in.

And as Sims said, “It’s go time!”

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