Color-tiers to dictate when various Branson sports begin

Cooper Tenney

Branson sports have now been assigned to COVID-colored tiers: purple (most restrictive), red, orange and yellow (least restrictive). Purple-tier sports teams began practice Feb. 2. 

All interscholastic sports are completely tied to their assigned color tier.

“Sports can begin once the county reaches the health tier [in which] the sport is allowed,” said Veronica Bosque, director of athletics.

The Branson sports by tier are as follows:

  • Purple tier: cross country, girls’ golf, girls’ tennis, swimming and diving, mountain biking, girls’ beach volleyball, boys’ tennis, boys’ golf, and track and field
  • Red tier: baseball and girls’ lacrosse
  • Orange tier: boys’ lacrosse, boys’ and girls’ soccer, and girls’ volleyball
  • Yellow tier: basketball

“We anticipate that Marin County will progress into the less restrictive tiers of red, orange and yellow as COVID is increasingly brought under control” Rich Mazzola, director of athletics, and Bosque wrote in a recent email. “So, it’s possible that our red tier sports — Baseball and Girls’ Lacrosse – could begin practice as early as March 1, in preparation for seasons that would begin in April.”

The sports that began practice on Feb. 2 in preparation for games in March include the following: cross country, girls’ golf, girls’ tennis, swimming and diving, mountain biking and girls’ beach volleyball. 

“Games won’t begin until next month, but we’re going to practice now preparing for those,” said Mazzola. 

Other purple-tier sports slated to start competitions in April include boys’ tennis, boys’ golf, and track and field.

“Once the girls’ tennis and golf seasons conclude, the boys will gain access to those facilities and can begin practicing,” wrote Mazzola and Bosque in the email.

Track and field practices are scheduled to begin a month later than cross country, on March 1. 

“Due to the limited availability of College of Marin’s facilities, we felt it necessary to stagger the continuation of cross country practices and the start of track and field,” the email said.

College of Marin has been closed since last March and has a hard time justifying opening their campus to Branson as they are not letting their own faculty, students, coaches and players on campus.

“We are still waiting to determine when we can start using College of Marin,” said Bosque.

New guidance from the NCS and CIF allows students to be in only one extracurricular cohort.

“Students now can only play on one team per season; they cannot be simultaneously playing on two teams,” said Chris Mazzola, head of school, in a recent school presentation.

The one-cohort rule also means that athletes will have to give up any outside club sports if they wish to play on an interscholastic team.

An athlete may, however, play two sports if they do not overlap. Current guidelines require a 10-day quarantine between team cohorts, according to the school presentation.

The cross country team has been practicing in-person for three weeks before Feb. 2, along with weekly virtual workouts with strength and conditioning coach Bruce Pruiett. All Branson sports teams must also take necessary precautions to stay within COVID guidelines.

“For safety this cross country season, the team has been broken into cohorts of 14 or fewer runners,” said Will Kennedy, the cross country coach. “We’re maintaining social distance while running on the trails and wearing masks when we meet on campus and when we stretch. The hope is that athletes will have the opportunity to race in some fashion this season.”

The new sports cohorts provide an opportunity for students to interact with a new set of classmates.

“I’m excited to meet more people on cross country outside of my classes,” said Carly Lowe, a freshman.

According to the Lake County Record-Bee, the Coastal Mountain Conference (not to be confused with the Marin County Athletic League) voted to officially cancel most fall and winter sports. 

The only Branson sport affected by this decision is eight-man football, as that is the only sport that Branson plays in the Coastal Mountain Conference.

According to the Record-Bee, “[CMC Commissioner Robert] Pinoli said time was a critical factor in the decision of the CMC’s principals and athletic directors, who participated in Monday’s Zoom meeting, to take the action they did.”

Some players expressed their disappointment upon hearing the decision to cancel this year’s football season.

“I have had some of my best memories at Branson playing football, and I was really looking forward to getting one last season,” said Cade Cessna, a senior. “I also definitely think we had some talented players and would’ve had a fun time winning games together this year after a tough stretch with COVID,” 

“The sudden stop of football was disappointing and sad,” said Jonathan Evers, a freshman.