ORCUTT, Calif. -- The first local high school sports competition in nearly a year is all set for this coming weekend.
Righetti High School is scheduled hold a cross country meet with area rival Pioneer Valley High School this Saturday at 10 a.m.
"I feel really excited," said Gabriel De La Rosa, Righetti senior cross country runner. "I'm happy to show how much I've grown as an athlete and I'm just really happy that I get to run my senior year."
The meet will mark the first sanctioned high school sports competition on the Central Coast since the COVID-19 pandemic started.
"It feels amazing to get to actually get to start competing," said Megan Cota, Righetti cross country coach. "We've been closed since March 13th and it's so been so sad thinking we're coming on year not getting to compete."
After Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the regional stay-at-home order last week, local schools received permission to begin holding athletic competitions for sports listed in the State's "purple tier" in its reopening plan.
Purple tier sports include cross country, track and field, swimming, tennis and golf.
Swimming, golf and tennis may start competitions on Feb. 15, while track and field can begin on March 20.
"We're just looking forward to giving the kids something to do," said Kevin Barbarick, Righetti Athletic Director. "It's really exciting and I'm so happy for the kids. They've all worked so hard and maintained great attitudes, and so they just deserve an opportunity to compete."
In order to facilitate the reopening of prep sports, strict safety protocols have been in place since practices started in September, and even more measures will be in effect for competitions.
"We're really limiting the number of kids that get to be here," said Cota. "We don't get to have spectators. We're going to have masks on. We have to have a million disposable masks ready to go, just in case. They have to wear them to the last second before they start running and have them on within 30 seconds of finishing that race. There's a lot of rules and protocols, but it's manageable and we're going to make it happen."
The safety measures will allow student-athletes to have an opportunity many didn't think they would ever receive.
"I did have my doubts," said De La Rosa. "I really didn't think I'd be running. It's not the senior year I expected, but I got to push on. It was a lot of work hard work and pushing forward. It has been discouraging with the pandemic, the worry of not having a season this year, but I'm just thankful that everything gets to work out and I'm running Saturday."
According to Righetti athletic director Kevin Barbarick, no other competitions are scheduled at this time.
"We have a meeting with the area athletic directors tomorrow and we'll talk about scheduling and figure out whether we need to stay within our county," said Barbarick.
For sports in other reopening tiers, such as football, baseball and basketball, they must wait until the county reaches that level to begin competition.
For football, counties must reach the orange tier for games to begin.
A county will reach the orange tier when it registers a. 7-day average of daily COVID-19 cases 1.0 to 3.9 cases 100,000 population. County test positivity rates are also used as criteria.
According to the official California COVID-19 website, Santa Barbara County currently registers a rate of 63.8 per 100,000, with an adjusted rate of 47.2.
"We just hope the numbers improve and we can have a truncated season and maybe pull off some games," said Barbarick. "We're looking at a potential date where we have to either call it or move forward on it and we're still a lit bit aways from that. We're not ready to cancel and give up hope yet."