Merced County schools might create an athletic league of their own

MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Merced Union High School District is considering stepping away from CIF athletics this semester and is organizing a league of its own.

This would give all their student-athletes a chance to play this semester.

Atwater High senior Riley Carr says it's been a year since she's been out on the court.

"I know a lot of us have been waiting for this. We've been really holding off for this season especially since it's the biggest part of our school year," Carr says.

With rising COVID numbers and athletics still on pause, the future for student-athletes this semester looked fuzzy.

So the Merced Union High School District is prepared to make a league of its own.

"Sports that we can do in the purple tier, we want to get rolling as soon as we can as soon as it's safe to get going," says Livingston High School athletic director Scott Winton.

Once the stay-at-home order is lifted, the proposed Merced County High School Athletic League would allow schools to play each other within county borders.

"It can be a challenge with the amount of time and planning that goes into scheduling a game setting up transportation and by organizing within county, it just eliminates one of those unknowns," says Winton.

The remaining school year would also be separated into 4 shorter seasons, just 8 to 10 weeks long, as opposed to the CIF's 2 longer seasons, allowing all high school athletes a chance to play their sport.

"Some of the sports that require more physical distance or there's more contact - we would want to push back to the spring season," says Winton.

One of the tradeoffs - playoffs and CIF championships will most likely not be in the cards.

But they say if it gets kids on the field safely, it will be worth it.

"They have dreamed about this time in their life and those dreams are not going to be fulfilled if we don't do something," says Merced High School head football coach Rob Scheidt.

It's an option giving students like Riley Carr the chance to step out on the court once more.

"I don't care if it's a short season, I just want to get back on the court," she says.

School officials are now waiting for more feedback from the CIF but say they'll make a decision on whether or not to go forward with this plan by early February.
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