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Dukes to play winter sports

Cumberland County Public Schools (CuCPS), as of Wednesday, Nov. 18, were set to participate in winter sports at the high school and middle school levels for the 2020-21 school year.

Cumberland County High School Athletics Director Joseph Nowak confirmed the news, noting that for the high school, this decision will allow seasons for boys and girls basketball, wrestling, boys and girls indoor track and field and winter sideline cheerleading.

He said for Cumberland County Middle School, boys and girls basketball and sideline cheerleading will be moving forward.

Nowak explained what has put CuCPS in a position to move forward with winter sports even as other schools in the area — including six of the nine in the James River District — have canceled winter sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think the biggest factor that we had, to say that we should go ahead with playing sports, is the fact that we are (holding) in-person learning with our hybrid schedule,” he said. “The feeling between our administration (officials) was if the kids are going to be asked to come into the building to learn, we feel as though we need to give them the opportunity to also participate in the other extracurriculars that they would have from being in the building, including sports.”

He noted that in-person classes began for Cumberland Oct. 19.

Nowak now is navigating the task of trying to fill out schedules for the high school Dukes and Lady Dukes. He started with a description of that process for basketball.

“So as of right now, the only games we have scheduled are with James River District opponents,” he said.

Aside from Cumberland, the only district foes participating in winter sports include Amelia County High School and Goochland High School.

“With a lot of the schools canceling in the last week or so, we’ve been scrounging around, trying to contact other schools to see if they have full schedules yet,” Nowak said. “So nothing’s set in stone yet. I’m hoping to add a couple — probably two to four more — games outside of the district to get us up to around 10 games for the season, at least, if not 12. But right now, I’ve just got games scheduled against Amelia and Goochland.”

As of Wednesday, he said Cumberland had two district wrestling matches scheduled — with Goochland and Amelia.

“I’m working on getting some more stuff set up with our Region 1B teams, so we may get another two matches from that,” he said.

He indicated that Cumberland’s indoor track and field teams have two polar bear meets scheduled at Appomattox County High School in January.

“As of right now, that’s the only stuff they’ll be competing in,” he said. “I know we’re in talks with Altavista’s track coach, and we might be possibly doing something with them as well.”

Practice began more than a week ago for Cumberland girls basketball and indoor track, Nowak said. Several other programs started this week, including boys basketball, wrestling and some middle school teams. The volleyball team also started its conditioning for the condensed fall sports season that will begin in March.

Nowak said that right now, it is up to the winter sports coaches’ discretion whether they want to start practicing.

“We have put more restrictions on them during their preseason practices than they’ll have once their actual season starts in December, and I think that has kind of discouraged some of the coaches because they can’t do everything that they want to do,” he said. “But if they’re not currently in-person practicing, all the coaches have been reaching out to their athletes, getting them on practice plans to do at home, whether it’s weightlifting, running, stuff like that that they can do on their own.”

As for the varsity football team, which is set to start playing in late February, Nowak said Cumberland’s coach is not planning on starting any practices until sometime in December, at the earliest, if not waiting until everyone comes back from winter break.