Lathrop High athletic director Chuck Selna can sense the energy rising on campus as normalcy is slowly restored.
On Thursday, the students held their first rally of the school year at the football stadium, where more activity is expected in the coming weeks.
“The kids are very excited that sports are coming back,” Selna said. “The mood is more positive on campus than it was before. You an see the kids smiling underneath those masks. The attitudes have been great on campus.”
While their Manteca Unified counterparts — East Union, Manteca, Sierra and Weston Ranch — settle in their sports seasons in the Valley Oak League, the Spartans are also gearing up for competition in the makeshift Western Athletic Conference.
Athletic directors met last week to discuss scheduling for football, soccer and water polo, high-contact outdoor sports that have recently been approved to return in San Joaquin County. The California Department of Public Health has eased its restrictions on these sports, requiring counties to have an adjusted case rate of 14 or below per 100,000 people. Players and coaches for football and water polo must be tested weekly for coronavirus as long as case rates remain above 7.
San Joaquin County's rate dropped to 11.6 on Tuesday, and Manteca-area schools have since gotten to work in preparing for their football, soccer and water polo seasons. Cross country, golf, tennis and swimming are already midseason, with baseball, softball and track and field soon to come.
Like the VOL, the truncated WAC football season is scheduled to kick off March 19. Lathrop will first scrimmage East Union at home on Saturday, March 13. The Spartans open with Mountain House at home for the “Old River Rivalry.”
Lathrop will then face Grace Davis (home), Patterson (away), Beyer (home) and Johansen (away). The conference has welcomed larger schools Patterson and Central Valley of Ceres — both former WAC members — for this season, and has been divided into North and South Divisions.
The WAC soccer season begins April 23, with Lathrop's boys hosting Grace Davis while the girls head to the Modesto school. Water polo starts April 20.
A limited number of fans may attend these games. Only two tickets are available to household members of each participant, but Selna said events will be live streamed on the NFHS Network. Lathrop's athletic booster club purchased a Pixellot camera system for the stadium and large gym.
“It opens up a brand new avenue for the fans, parents, out-of-town grandparents or students who are unable to attend in-person,” Selna said. “It's not just our school, there are others in the league who have it. With a subscription, they can watch away games if they can't make it to those venues.”