After a delay of more than a month, area winter sports teams are finally gearing up to compete.

The delay stems from Gov. Tim Walz’s announcement that sports would “pause” temporarily - along with a number of other restrictions regarding building capacities and public gatherings - to slow the spread of COVID-19. The decision also brought the already shortened football and volleyball seasons to an abrupt end.

Minnesota winter sports teams received the all-clear from the governor’s office and the Minnesota State High School League to begin practicing on Monday, Jan. 4, with competitions set to begin this week.

Schedules are in place for all teams competing in basketball, hockey, wrestling, dance, gymnastics and alpine skiing. However, local activities directors admit these schedules are likely to change, probably more than once, over the course of the next two months.

“I would be very surprised if we're not shuffling schedules continuously throughout the season,” PR-B activities director Tim Tungseth said. “Everyone just has to be flexible and work together and to try and provide students with the best opportunities that we can, but if I'm thinking realistically, there are going to be changes and we'll do the best we can with it.”

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The MSHSL is allowing for roughly 18 competitions per team, with no more than two games or meets per week, but some space has been set aside in the final weeks for make-up games, when up to three events per week is allowed. Basketball and hockey players are required to wear face coverings during practices and competitions.

Postseason play is still somewhat in doubt, but the MSHSL is shooting for the winter season to end around mid-March, likely to allow for the most complete spring season possible since those seasons were cancelled in 2020.

Two spectators per athlete are allowed at competitions, and attendance is once limited to 25% capacity, with a maximum of 150 people allowed in gyms and rinks.