Playoffs set to return to CIF Southern Section

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Baseball is one of the many sports the CIF Southern Section said they will hold postseason team championships for this spring. Caden Byers, (20) a first baseman for Murrieta Mesa High School plays in a home game against Murrieta Valley Friday, April 16. Valley News/Andrez Imaging

The CIF Southern Section, which is the largest section in the state, announced Monday, April 12, that it will hold postseason team championships this spring for the Season 2 sports of baseball, softball, basketball, soccer, boys’ volleyball, lacrosse, tennis and dual-meet wrestling and is “actively working” with health officials for approval to hold individual playoffs in other sports.

Rob Wigod, commissioner of CIF Southern Section, said his section is seeking to hold individual championships in track and field, swimming, golf and tennis but will not hold individual championships in wrestling because of health restrictions.

The playoffs are scheduled to return in May after the pandemic forced the cancellation of the state basketball and spring championships last spring and the Season 1 playoffs earlier this school year.

“We’re going to hand (championship) plaques out again,” Wigod said during a news conference. “I want to commend our student-athletes first for hanging in there. Are there going to be bumps? Yes. But we are going to work together to ensure this school year and high school sports season wraps up in as normal a fashion as it can.”

The Season 2 sports that missed out on the playoffs last spring were baseball, softball, track and field, swimming and diving, boys’ volleyball, lacrosse, boys’ tennis and boys’ golf.

The announcement arrived following improved health conditions throughout the state the last several weeks. The number of coronavirus cases has dramatically declined while the distribution of the vaccine has widely increased. The California Department of Public Health also made a key adjustment last week to its guidelines for youth sports, allowing teams to travel throughout the state for “inter-team competitions” or games between two teams. Teams were previously limited to compete within their county or in a bordering county.

The adjustment was critical because the Southern Section includes approximately 560 schools from eight different counties, including Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside. The section will proceed by hosting team playoffs at home sites, using the same qualifying criteria and divisions as in the past.

The CDPH guidelines still prohibit “tournaments or events” involving more than two teams, which presents an obstacle for holding an individual wrestling tournament or multiple championship games at one site. But the CDPH allows for exceptions, “with authorization from the local health department where the event is being held and each of the local health departments where teams originate from,” in the sports of track and field, swimming and diving, golf and tennis.

The Southern Section said that it is working on “securing approval from various county health departments” to hold postseason championships in track and field, swimming and diving, golf and tennis.

“We’ve already been in contact with various sites that we’re trying to line up … (and are) already working with some county health departments,” Wigod said and mentioned that swimming and diving would not be held at its regular site of Riverside City College.

The L.A. City Section has maintained it will host team playoffs for Season 2, but the status of indoor basketball and wrestling are “to be determined,” Commissioner Vicky Lagos said.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has not approved indoor competition.

The Southern Section said more details about playoff dates, locations and spectators will be “coming soon.” Wigod said he believed streaming options will be in place for fans not able to attend games. He also emphasized the importance of being flexible about games being played later in the calendar or the potential of games being canceled due to a positive COVID-19 test.

JP Raineri can be reached by email at sports@reedermedia.com.