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A scene from last season’s South Burlington-Brattleboro boys’ basketball game at the BUHS gym filled with sights we won’t see this season: a gymnasium full of fans, players and officials without face masks, and a Brattleboro team playing a northern Vermont opponent. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means the upcoming high school basketball season in Vermont will feature masked players in games played in empty gymnasiums against teams closer to home. The Brattleboro player at right is Greg Fitzgerald.

Sports

Vt. high schools will resume play

The fall high school sports season in Vermont, held under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, was a success.

Yes, the masks and sanitizer and social distancing made things a bit more cumbersome and awkward. To the credit of the coaches, the players, and the fans, everything worked. The students got a chance to play, and there were no outbreaks as a result of the games.

Fortunately, the fall was a relatively tranquil time in Vermont for the pandemic. Now, as the calendar turns to January, we are looking back on a month that saw more new COVID-19 cases and more deaths than at any time since the state starting tracking the virus last March.

Since Nov. 24, high school sports had been on hold in Vermont. No practices were held, the first month of games were postponed, and there was some doubt about whether there would be a winter season at all.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott ended the uncertainty on Dec. 22 when gave the green light to schools to start practices, beginning Dec. 26.

Student-athletes got back into harness last week, with the goal of getting ready to start the winter seasons for their sports on Jan. 11. According to Brattleboro Union High School athletic director Chris Sawyer, ice hockey and nordic skiing practices began Dec. 28, and basketball and bowling got started on Jan. 4.

As was the case in the fall, players, coaches and referees will all be required to wear facial coverings during the contests. Unlike the fall, when a limited number of spectators were allowed at games, fans will not be allowed at any indoor events.

Of course, everything is tentative, and changes in public health conditions and weather could alter schedules, but the Brattleboro girls’ basketball team will be the first to take the court when they travel to Manchester to play Burr & Burton on Jan. 11. Their home opener will be Jan. 14, when they host Burr & Burton at the BUHS gym.

The Bellows Falls girls have their opening game on Jan. 14 against Rutland at Holland Gymnasium. Leland & Gray starts the girls’ basketball season at home in Jan. 18 against Poultney, and Twin Valley will wait until Jan. 27, when they travel to Dorset to play Long Trail.

In boys’ basketball, Brattleboro hosts Rutland for their opener at the BUHS gym on Jan. 15, while Bellows Falls starts its season against Leland & Gray in Townshend on Jan. 22. Twin Valley will host Proctor in Whitingham in their opener on Jan. 15.

Ice hockey will start on Jan. 20 at Withington Rink when the Brattleboro boys host Rutland. No schedule has been set as of this writing for the Brattleboro girls.

The schedules for Brattleboro’s varsity bowling team and its nordic ski team are also still to be determined as of this writing.

SVL realigns for pandemic season

• For girls’ and boys’ basketball in Vermont, the hope is for an 18-game regular season that will conclude on Feb. 27.

Last month, the athletic directors of the Southern Vermont League approved for the 2020-21 season a four-division plan based on size (large and small schools) and geography (East and West), with six schools in each division.

As was the case with football, this temporary realignment aims to cut down on travel. The divisional breakdowns are as follows:

Boys’ Large School West: Fair Haven, Otter Valley, Mount St. Joseph, Rutland, Burr & Burton, Mount Anthony.

Boys’ Large School East: Hartford, Woodstock, Springfield, Windsor, Bellows Falls, Brattleboro.

Boys’ Small School West: Mill River, West Rutland, Proctor, Poultney, Long Trail, Arlington.

Boys’ Small School East: Rivendell, White River Valley, Sharon, Green Mountain, Leland & Gray, Twin Valley.

Girls’ Large School West: Fair Haven, Otter Valley, Mount St. Joseph, Rutland, Burr & Burton, Mount Anthony.

Girls’ Large School East: Hartford, Woodstock, Springfield, Windsor, Bellows Falls, Brattleboro.

Girls’ Small School West: Mill River, West Rutland, Proctor, Poultney, Long Trail, Arlington.

Girls’ Small School East: Rivendell, White River Valley, Sharon/Mid-Vermont Christian (co-op), Green Mountain, Leland & Gray, Twin Valley.

The plan is to have to have 10 league games, or two games against each of the other five teams in the division. The rest of the schedule is expected to be filled out with regional crossover games.

Marlboro Nordic Ski Club forms

• One of the perks of living in Marlboro was having access to the network of nordic skiing trails at Marlboro College. With the closure of the college, and the purchase of the campus by Democracy Builders, there was concern about continued access to those trails.

Those fears were dispelled with the formation of the Marlboro Nordic Ski Club, a new nonprofit organization dedicated to the promotion of nordic skiing and the maintenance of the Marlboro College ski trails. The club reached an agreement with Democracy Builders to continue to provide access to the trail to club members.

The club says it plans to maintain 10 miles of groomed nordic trails, including a new, professionally designed and constructed 2.5 kilometer loop that will be groomed for skate skiing. The club will loan children’s equipment for day use several days a week, and offer instruction and youth racing through the Bill Koch Youth Ski League.

You don’t have to live in Marlboro to be a member of the club. It is open to all: $50 for an individual; $100 for a family. Membership, along with the signing of the Democracy Builders liability waiver (available on the Marlboro Nordic Ski Club website), is required for the use of those portions of the trail network that exist on the former college campus.

The club, however, will be grooming the entire South Pond loop as well as the perimeter of the pond itself. Fees cover the running and maintenance of grooming equipment, liability insurance, loaner skis, and instruction.

Trail access will be at the college soccer field at 2582 South Rd. in Marlboro, and parking will exist in the dirt lot on the south side of South Road, just across the street from Persons Auditorium and the field.

A kiosk on the north side of the road, just south of the soccer field, will direct skiers to the trailhead. Club members are asked to access the trail network at the designated points, park where directed, and staying on the trail network when on campus.

The club is funded entirely through memberships and donations. If one cannot afford the fees and need assistance, you can reach out to club and they will accommodate you.

To join the Marlboro Nordic Ski Club and sign the Democracy Builders liability release, visit www.marlboronordicskiclub.com/membership and like them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarlboroNordicSkiClub, where they will post daily trail conditions and updates.

Snowshoes, BOC passes available at Brooks Library

• The Christmas Day rainstorm wiped out that nice, deep snowpack left by the first big snowstorm of the season last month, but there will be snow again, and when it returns, you may want to try snowshoeing or cross-country skiing at the Brattleboro Outing Club’s trails at the Brattleboro Country Club.

If you do, and you have a Brooks Memorial Library card, you can borrow a pair of snowshoes. The library has snowshoes and poles to fit all sizes and ages. They also have day passes available for the BOC trails.

Both are available for pickup at the library during their normal curbside hours, Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call the library at 802-254-5290 for more information.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #594 (Wednesday, January 6, 2021). This story appeared on page C4.

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