LIHU‘E — People have been waiting for nearly two years through the COVID-19 pandemic that effectively shut down any sporting activity.
The wait is finally over.
Thursday, the state Department of Education Kaua‘i Complex Area Office, in partnership with the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation, announced the return of KIF athletic competitions.
“We are taking this step as a response to our current understanding of the pandemic in schools and on our island as well as the current Centers for Disease Control and the Department of Health guidance,” said Paul Zina, DOE Kaua‘i Complex Area superintendent, in a statement. “Our priorities are health and safety, reaching all of our students and having a positive impact on our families.”
The first step toward the reopening started Sept. 27, following the deadline for students, coaches, staff and volunteers to be fully vaccinated or receive an exemption from vaccination for religious or medical reasons.
Practice for fall-season sports, including football, air riflery, girls volleyball, cheerleading and cross country, were allowed to proceed utilizing DOE facilities.
“We know athletes, coaches, families and community supporters have been working diligently to prepare in every way required for an exciting high-school-athletics season,” Zina said.
“We have all learned throughout the pandemic that working together is the best way to move forward, and with this spirit of cooperation we will have a great year of KIF competition.”
According to the KIF schedule released earlier this week, the first activities take place on Oct. 16, when the KIF runners — both male and female — travel to Island School for the first cross-country meet of the season that starts at 7:30 a.m.
The run is followed by the Kapa‘a High air-riflery team traveling to the Waimea High range for a match that starts at 10 a.m., and Kaua‘i High’s team traveling to the Island School range in Puhi for a match that starts at noon.
Football is one of the more-anxiously awaited sports, and will see the Kapa‘a Warriors traveling to Hanapepe Stadium to take on Waimea, with the junior-varsity contest kicking off at noon, followed by the varsity contest starting about 30 minutes following the completion of the JV matchup (anticipated start time between 3 and 3:30 p.m.).
“Current HIDOE COVID-19 safety requirements will apply,” Zina said on the mayor’s Thursday video update. “Everyone must wear a mask except when eating and drinking. All events will have limited capacity for spectators, and you will need to sit with your ‘ohana group and physical distance from other groups.”
Additional safety measures include the establishment of 6 feet of space between each ‘ohana group in the stands or bleachers. No coolers will be allowed at KIF events. These measures may be revised in response to future emergency guidelines.
“We know we can do this Kaua‘i, for our athletes and each other,” Zina said. “On behalf of the Department of Education, Kaua‘i complex, the County of Kaua‘i and the Kaua‘i Interscholastic Federation, aloha and welcome back as we restart athletics for our students.”
Other starting dates include girls volleyball on Oct. 19, when Kapa‘a travels to the Clem Gomes Gym in Waimea to face Waimea, and the Lady Red Raiders of Kaua‘i visit the Voyagers at the Wilcox Gymnasium on the Island School campus. The JV contests serve up from 5 p.m., followed by the varsity girls serving up 25 minutes following the completion of the JV contests.
The first KIF bowling tournament rolls on Oct. 21 starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Kaua‘i Bowl in Rice Shopping Center in Lihu‘e.
“A huge mahalo to the KIF — to all of our referees, coaches, team moms and everyone coming together to let our kids play,” Mayor Derek Kawakami said.
“To our spectators: Let’s rally behind our favorite tream. But remember, sportsmanship is not just reserved for the field but for the stands as well. Let’s be positive. Let’s pick people up. And remember, they’re all out there to have fun.”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or firstname.lastname@example.org.