The school year is almost here, however that may look.
One thing that, for now, has not changed is fall sports, as preseason practices begin Monday for Missouri high school teams.
The fall sports lineup includes football, boys swimming and diving, boys soccer, cross country, softball (fall season), girls tennis, girls golf and volleyball.
From previous Missourian reporting, the fall football season is still moving forward but with a limited number of fans in the stands and livestreams being offered as an alternative.
Any student-athletes who previously feared they wouldn’t be able to compete have had some relief. The Missouri State High School Activities Association recently ruled that schools only offering online courses this fall can compete with their in-person counterparts.
“The Board granted relief of the MSHSAA Constitution which provides a MSHSAA Member School the ability to participate in activities if the school begins the school year or transitions to entirely virtual instruction, provided they are following all health department requirements and phases, if applicable,” the statement read.
St. Louis area schools were the most affected by the previous ruling that remote-learning only schools would not be able to compete, as the St. Louis area has been a major hotbed for the coronavirus.
For the Columbia high schools, there is all sorts of promise and unfinished business from last season. Let’s have a look at how they are preparing for the upcoming season.
The Rock Bridge Bruins football team, under the direction of head coach Van Vanatta, looks to bounce back from a disappointing 3-7 season, Vanatta’s first losing season in almost ten years as a head coach.
This year, the Bruins have a chance to redeem themselves with key games against Jefferson City on Sept. 12, Liberty on Oct. 2, and Francis Howell on Oct. 23, in addition to games against crosstown rivals Hickman on Oct. 16 and Battle on Oct. 9.
Other sports to keep an eye on for Rock Bridge this fall are the boys swim and dive team, which finished fifth in the Class 2 State Championships last fall.
Even with the loss of 200-yard freestyle state champion Oakley Lorson, the Bruins still have swimmers such as state A finalists junior Jackson Veltrop and senior Turner DeArmond as they look to move up in the Class 2 state rankings.
The Hickman football team in 2019, despite its 4-6 record, was able to make it to the state playoffs, where the Kewpies lost to Troy Buchanan 14-6 in the first round.
This year, coach Cedric Alvis and his Kewpies look to improve on their record and go further in the state playoffs.
Hickman girls volleyball has some unfinished business after losing in the quarterfinals of the state volleyball tournament last season, coming one match short of the Final Four. They finished the season with a 22-15-1 record and won their district championship. In the state tournament, they went all the way to the quarterfinals before dropping both sets to Francis Howell Central. The Kewpies lost six seniors from that squad, so they will be relying on a lot of their younger players to lead them to that elusive Final Four appearence.
Battle’s 2019 football season was a success under then-first-year head coach Atiyyah Ellison, as the Spartans finished with a 7-4 record and reached the second round of the Class 5 State Tournament. They lost to Ft. Zumwalt North 63-20 to end their season, but the Spartans had a lot to feel good about.
Their offense was explosive last season, scoring more than 50 points four times and 60 points twice.
This season, the journey starts right where it ended: a game against Ft. Zumwalt North at home Aug. 28. Other noteworthy games, besides crosstown games against Hickman on Sept. 18 and Rock Bridge on Oct. 9, are Smith-Cotton on Oct. 2 and Jefferson City, Oct. 16.
Battle’s boys swim and dive team will be without three-time Class 1 State Champion in the 200-yard individual medley and 100-yard butterfly AJ Huskey, so they will be looking for contributions from other places this coming season.
Football head coach Michael Egnew looks to bring his Trailblazers back to respectability after a 1-9 season this past year. Some noteworthy opponents this season are Hallsville, Lutheran St. Charles and Cuba.