Illinois high schools head into spring sports without masks

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PARIS, Ill. (WTWO/WAWV) — With the Illinois High School Association no longer requiring face coverings for low risk sports, Paris High School coaches and athletes are ready to begin their spring seasons.

After a late start to their athletic season, Illinois high school athletes were excited to have the opportunity to play but they were required to wear masks during competition. Now masks are being lifted for low risk sports including baseball, softball, bass fishing, tennis and track & field.

“People say it’s not good to have it on for high exercise. It’s OK to have on during high exercise. I just think it gives them freedom,” said football and softball head coach Jeremy Clodfelder. “It gives them the freedom to breathe and to really more than anything just play normal the way they have their whole lives.”

It’s a sense of normalcy that student-athletes are looking for after a difficult start to the season.

“Definitely towards the beginning of the year, I would always want to pull my mask down. Coaches were pretty adamant about keeping them up,” said junior Bryan Kohlmeyer, who plays football and baseball.

Athletic director Creighton Tarr says with all sports having to fit into the spring season, the overlap has been difficult on students at times, but they’re managing the task.

“The old saying about the days being long but the years are short, that’s a lot of truth here. These days have been long for their kids,” said Tarr. “A lot of times they have practices in the morning and games in the evening.”

Mask or no mask, the track and field teams are excited to compete.

“Last year we didn’t get a season at all,” said girls track & field head coach, Taylor Birchfield. “We started our practices and we got cut short pretty quick, but having a postseason is huge because I have several girls who are already close to getting state qualifying distances or times. I think it’s going to make a huge difference since we only have six meets for them including the conference meet.”

Athletes who aren’t actively competing, including those sitting on the bench or standing on the sidelines, must continue wearing masks.

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