NMAA announces changes to state championships schedules and fan participation

Steven Bortstein
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — There are going to be some significant changes to state championships in winter sports at Rio Rancho as well as in Albuquerque, according to Sally Marquez, executive director of the New Mexico Activities Association.

In an interview posted by the NMAA earlier this week, Marquez stated that the decisions being made were in the best interests of fans, coaches, spectators and athletes alike, especially with attendance and fan participation restrictions still in place at many New Mexico high schools.

"Whether we're a player, a parent or just a spectator, we need to abide by those rules and mask up where we're indoor sporting so that we can continue," Marquez said. "Our student athletes need sports and we've talked about this for almost two years now, that it's important they're engaged in school and engaged in their activities. This is a time right now for our winter sports, that everyone gets on board."

The changes to next month's wrestling state championships will be related to scheduling, with state titles being handed out in boys wrestling from Class A to 4A on Friday, Feb. 18 with the Class 5A finals as well as all girls championships to be decided on Saturday, Feb. 19.

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New Mexico Acitivities Association executive director Sally Marquez

The two-day event will be held at the Rio Rancho Events Center.

Part of the reason for the rescheduling of events was to help curb the need for more overnight stays for teams traveling to the event, which are currently having to make accommodations for both vaccinated and non-vaccinated student athletes as well as team coaches and officials. 

"The overnight travel rule has not changed, but there have been some tweaks" Marquez said. "The unvaccinated can stay in a room by themselves. They cannot share rooms while the vaccinated can share rooms with other vaccinated student athletes."

If student athletes are staying in a two-room suite, unvaccinated students can stay in the two-room suite, but you cannot have the suites mixed with vaccinated and unvaccinated students, according to Marquez.

These new guidelines were presented in the latest New Mexico Department of Education toolkit, which was presented on Wednesday, Jan. 12. 

One of the more significant changes to the toolkit has been a revised length of time for students to remain in quarantine if they come back with a positive test.

"We're now down to a five-day quarantine period," Marquez said in the interview. "The students can come back to school if they're not symptomatic at all and they've had their five days of quarantine, they can then come back to participate."

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The state swimming finals, which will now be held on Wednesday, Feb. 16 for the boys and Saturday, Feb, 19 for the girls at the Albuquerque Academy Natatorium, will have limitations for fans.

"We are going to allow two people (in attendance) per athlete," Marquez said. "We will work with the schools to eliminate the amount of people in that facility but allows the parents to go see their kids perform."

The state basketball tournament, slated for March, will also go through some schedule and location changes.

"Just like every other sport, we need to make changes due to the overnight travel restrictions," Marquez said. "The change this year is that the quarterfinal round will now be held at the home site of the higher seed on Tuesday, March 8 and Wednesday, March 9."

Semifinal and championship games (for the basketball tournament) will be set for March 10 through March 12, with an emphasis on games being played on back-to-back days.

"Playing back-to-back eliminates them having to spend more than one night in a hotel for the state basketball championships."

Fans will be allowed in attendance for the state tournament, slated for University Arena in Albuquerque, though vaccination status will be checked.

"Our fans will need to follow those protocols where spectators need to be vaccinated or have a negative COVID test," Marquez said. 

You can see the full-length interview with Marquez by visiting their YouTube channel. 

Steve Bortstein can be reached via email at SBortstein@Gannett.com, via Twitter @DTSBortstein or on the phone at (505) 635-2680.