PIAA set to move state swimming championships from Bucknell to Cumberland Valley

York Suburban's Sophia Guyer competes in the 100-yard backstroke during the District 3 Swimming Championships at Cumberland Valley High School near Mechanicsburg in 2019. The PIAA Swimming Championships will also be held at Cumberland Valley in 2021.

York-Adams League swimmers who qualify for the state meet will likely have a much shorter trip this year.

After several discussions between the PIAA and Bucknell University, the PIAA voted at Wednesday's meeting to move the 2021 state swimming and diving championships to Cumberland Valley High School near Mechanicsburg. The diving championships will take place on March 13 and the swimming championships will follow March 19-20.

Bucknell, the longtime host of the state swimming meets, is struggling with capacity limits and building limitations with students. Bucknell gave the PIAA a limit of 110, which doesn't cover all swimming qualifiers and game workers.

The move to Cumberland Valley is dependent upon written confirmation from Bucknell that the PIAA would be released from its contract for this season. The release was agreed to over the phone this week, the PIAA said.

The York-Adams swimmers who qualify for the state 3-A meet will be very familiar with Cumberland Valley. That will also be the site of the District 3 Class 3-A Swimming Championships on Saturday, March 6.

The trip from downtown York to Cumberland Valley is about 33 miles. The trip from York to Bucknell is about 85 miles.

“One of the things that made Cumberland Valley attractive to us was that we can use so many facilities within their building,” said Melissa Mertz, the PIAA’s associate executive director. “We can use their auxiliary gym, their cafeteria, their auditorium and it allows flexibility in spacing people out. They’ve also been very kind in working with us on expenses and rentals and stuff like that, and that was appealing as well.”

No fans will be allowed at the state swim meet.

As for the fall seasons, the PIAA also voted to not hold regionals in golf this coming fall, which is what happened in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The PIAA also gave the tennis and volleyball steering committees the ability to reduce the PIAA qualifiers in boys' tennis and boys' volleyball this spring if conditions warrant.

The PIAA also discussed several changes to the winter sports season.

The PIAA competitive spirit championships are now set for April 10 in Hershey.

The PIAA team wrestling championships will move back to the end of March. The PIAA is looking at March 20 for the district deadline. That means District 3 can likely delay the team wrestling tournament until after the PIAA wrestling individual tournament, which is scheduled for March 11-13.

The PIAA will play all 2021 state playoff basketball games at home sites up until the state finals, which are still tentatively planned for the Giant Center in Hershey.

Under the new format, games will be played at the home facility of the team listed on the upper half of the bracket — provided both schools are located on the same side of the state — all the way up until the championship round.

Mask rule: The proper wearing of masks during competition also came up Wednesday.

There were complaints that the masks weren't being worn properly and didn't amount to anything more than "chin diapers."

Patrick Gebhart, the PIAA’s assistant executive director, confirmed that officials don’t have the authority to enforce the mask rule.

“In the most recent basketball [PIAA] bulletin it gave guidance to officials not to enforce the mask rule because they don’t have the authority,” Gebhart said. “If they have issue with the way the masks are being worn, they should talk to the game manager for that contest.”

Later, PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi said the organization’s policy mirrors the policy of Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration and the state’s department of health.

“Everybody wears a mask except those individuals that claim an exception,” he said. “That’s the way the order is written and we’re following it. The order says masks will be worn and we support that. We also support the ability of an individual to have an assessment to possibly claim an exception and gain a waiver.”

Lombardi said that what concerns him is that some schools are doing their own thing “and saying they’re doing this, or they’re doing that and that doesn’t follow the order.”

At least until the state tournament begins in March, it’s going to be up to schools and leagues and districts to police themselves in regard to appropriate mask wearing.

“You see things change almost weekly, so we still have time,” Lombardi said of how things will be enforced during the state playoffs. “We’re going to work on that as we move forward.”

Football schedule change? The PIAA’s football steering committee will meet in February to consider changing the look of the state’s football calendar.

Last fall the season was revamped and the PIAA tournament was reduced in length to the point that the championship games in Hershey were played two weeks earlier and ended on Thanksgiving weekend. That time frame offered more time between the end of fall sports season and the start of the winter sports.

Lombardi said the start and end dates for the 2021 season will be up for discussion as well as the length of the season. It said it is possible a proposed new schedule could be enacted in time for the 2021 season if passed early enough to give all programs time to adjust.

“We may move the start to a week earlier, we may reduce the number of regular-season games, we may look at shortening the playoffs,” Lombardi said. “There’s a whole lot of things to consider there, including shortening preseason practice. We’ll get into the laboratory and have some back-and-forth discussion. There’s a whole lot of possibilities there.”

The Erie Times-Tribune, The (Allentown) Morning Call and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette through the TNS news service contributed to this story.