Suffolk to resume 'high-risk' HS sports, plans include Farmingville Hills County Park

Farmingville Hills County Park at 501 Horseblock Rd. in Farmingville.

FARMINGVILLE, NY ( / — Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Monday announced plans to resume high school sports deemed high-risk. Additionally, Bellone said cross-country teams can use several county-owned parks, including Farmingville Hills County Park. The Farmingville park is known for challenging runs and is home of the annual “Conquer the Hills” 5K run and 2.6K hike.

The county’s plan, which was developed in consultation with the Suffolk County School Superintendents Association and Section XI, will allow for approximately 21,500 student athletes to participate in high-risk sports.

“As a parent, I understand just how critical of an outlet sports are for our youth,” Bellone said. "With safety at the forefront, we are committed to working with all of our partners to ensure our student athletes who have been on the sidelines for months are able to get back in the game they love. Today’s announcement is a win for all athletes, parents, and coaches as we work to regain some sense of normalcy.” 

The county health department issued guidelines to help protect public health as high-risk sports resume. Suffolk County will be the first in state to require mandatory weekly testing of student athletes for high-risk sports. The county will provide rapid tests to school districts, free of charge, to administer weekly testing by the school nurses. Suffolk County will receive an initial allocation from New York state for 20,000 rapid tests, and will continue to seek additional allocations to provide to schools to administer tests each week.

Following CDC and New York state guidance, students participating in high-risk sports found to be COVID-19 positive must adhere to a 10-day quarantine, and each coach will be required to supply information to the county health department for a comprehensive case and contact tracing investigation.

Suffolk County Department of Health guidelines to ensure safe play include:  

  • Taking the temperatures of players and coaches prior to practices and games. 
  • Masks should be worn whenever possible, especially when on the sidelines not engaged in play. 
  • Enforce social distancing when not engaged in play. 
  • Require hand washing or sanitizing of hands before and after practices and games, and after sharing equipment. 
  • Minimize equipment sharing. Players should bring their own equipment; have individual water bottles, and no sharing of food. 
  • Maintain attendance logs of players, staff, and coaches. Attendance logs should include contact information. 
  • Play in smart spaces. Always outdoors if possible. Use large and well-ventilated spaces for play. 
  • Consider dividing larger teams into smaller groups and stagger practices with different times or days. Limit those individuals not essential to the practice from attending.

Additionally, as part of the safety guidelines, Suffolk County launched the “Champion of the Community Pledge” to encourage smart decisions during the season, including complying with all COVID-19 safety recommendations and protocols. The Suffolk Community Champion Pledge asks student athletes to:

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  • Stay safe, healthy and informed of COVID-19 updates both on and off the field.
  • Unite with my team members and school community to have a memorable season.
  • Follow face mask, hygiene and social distancing guidelines.
  • Follow all additional health and safety requirements of the school. This may include participating in testing, self-quarantining, and contact tracing.
  • Operate in a healthy environment and complete daily health attestations.
  • Lead by example and support members of my team who may be experiencing physical and mental health challenges.
  • Know that I am a role model for my team members and community.

Last year, Section XI announced plans to run three shortened sports seasons for JV and Varsity athletes, starting with winter from Jan. 4 to Feb. 27, then fall sports from March 1 to April 25, and the spring sports season from April 26 to June 19. Earlier this month, low and moderate risk winter sports including, boys and girls winter track, fencing, bowling and boys swimming resumed in Suffolk County. Sports deemed high-risk, including boys and girls basketball, wrestling and competitive cheer will resume Feb. 1, and conclude Feb. 27.

"On average there are more than 60,000 student athletes participating in various high school sports during a normal school year," according to the county's announcement. "By allowing high-risk sports such as basketball, wrestling and competitive cheer to resume, the county health department is providing opportunities for approximately 21,500 student athletes to compete in their respective sports for the upcoming winter, fall and spring seasons."

Additionally, Bellone directed the Suffolk County Parks Department to work with Section XI, the governing body for high school sports in the county, to set up a "fair and equitable process" for local school districts to schedule cross country meets in county parks. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, locations that had previously hosted meets are now unavailable, according to the county.

One of the parks — Farmingville Hills County Park in Farmingville — is within Sachem. The Horseblock Road park is a favorite for runners looking for a challenging experience because of the hilly terrain. As OnSachem News has reported, the park is home of "Conquer the Hills," the annual 5K run and 2.6K hike organized by the Farmingville Historical Society (watch the videos below).

In addition to Farmingville Hills County Park, other parks Bellone recommended for cross country races include: 

  • Cathedral Pines County Park in Middle Island 
  • Blydenburgh County Park in Smithtown
  • Southaven County Park in Yaphank 
  • Indian Island County Park in Riverhead 
  • Gardiner County Park in Bay Shore
  • West Hills County Park in Huntington 
  • Sears Bellows County Park in Hampton Bays
  • Cedar Point County Park in East Hampton

"By making county parks available, the Parks Department is helping to ensure that the season, which will begin on March 1, can continue on without any interruptions," according to the county. "The meets will include strict safety measures and guidelines to protect student athletes, coaches, and any staff onsite."

‘Conquer the Hills’ with the Farmingville Historical Society at Farmingville Hills County Park


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