EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — High school student-athletes across the greater El Paso area are back on the field and in the gym. Tuesday marked the first day team activity could take place at the high school level in El Paso after a city order prevented them from practicing until after the Labor Day holiday.
El Paso football programs in Class 5A-6A and most of 4A and 3A are beginning with strength and conditioning work this week. However, over at Anthony High School, the Wildcats are one of the first teams to put the helmets on in the Borderland.
“We have to make sure that anyone and everyone who peeks out their window or drives by understands we are trying to do what we can to keep the kids safe while getting their season completed,” said first year Anthony head coach Michael Lewis. “First and foremost, it’s just trying to get in a full season from start to finish for the kids.”
The UIL ruled in late July that small schools (1A-4A) in Texas would begin the season on-time with no delays — and they did — without El Paso and some other large cities in the state. That is because the City of El Paso’s health order, which has since expired, prevented schools like Anthony in the area from beginning their seasons with the rest of the state. Ultimately it will mean playing a shorter season.
“I’m really thankful that we are able to have a fall season,” said Anthony senior running back Fernie Ramirez. “I know it’s down to six games from the 10 games we usually have, but I’m just really thankful for the opportunity we still have right now.”
High school volleyball also saw its first day of practices across the city. The turn-around time for these programs will be fierce with games beginning this weekend.
“I think the best part is just being with my team on the court — just being able to play and finally hit the ball,” said Anthony senior outside hitter Alejandra Flores.
Throughout the summer, conducting indoor practices has been a concern for school officials, which has in-turn led to extra precautions being taken. The UIL has put in place a series of their own policies and procedures, while individual schools will also practice some of their own rules.
“We’ve decided we are going to keep our masks on inside, we are sanitizing the balls and just making sure we can make those changes as frequent as possible,” said Anthony head coach Alex Gordon.
It will be a year unlike any other in high school athletics, but something is certainly better than nothing.