ST. PAUL — State tournaments are one step closer to returning to Minnesota high school sports.
The Minnesota State High School League Board of Directors on Thursday approved dates, locations, and format changes for state tournaments in dance, alpine and nordic skiing, boys swimming, wrestling, gymnastics, hockey and basketball.
The Board had previously approved tentative dates for tournament action back in December, but left the specifics to be determined until Thursday’s meeting.
Winter sports state tournaments will kick off with alpine skiing on March 10 and conclude with boys and girls basketball on April 10.
Minnesota hasn’t held a state tournament since the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic last March. Fall sports postseason competition concluded with section tournaments. And in the cases of football and volleyball, section competition wasn’t even able to conclude, as youth sports were shut down by an executive order from Gov. Tim Walz.
In some cases, the state tournaments will look similar to years past and in others they will look quite different. Changes to the formats for each sport were implemented to attempt to keep people as safe as possible. They include reducing the number of competitors, expanding or contracting the number of days across which the tournament is held, and altering venues.
The hope is to reduce the amount of travel, the number of nights spent in hotels and exposure to large groups as much as possible.
It is unknown whether each tournament will be able to allow fan attendance. Right now the limit in Minnesota is 150 spectators.
“It is no surprise that in a COVID pandemic, that health and safety is going to be a primary principle that we focus on in all that we do,” MSHSL executive director Erich Martens said during the meeting. “Everything that we do creates some level of risk and the goal is to minimize it to the greatest extent possible as we still try to provide that experience for our students.”
The dance state tournament will be held across two days at Edina High School with the jazz performances on Friday, March 12 and the kick performances on Saturday, March 13.
Twelve teams in each of the three classes will qualify for state. Those 12 teams will be grouped into three pods of four teams, and only one pod will be allowed in the venue at a time.
The boys swimming and diving state tournament will be conducted on March 17-19 at its traditional location at the University of Minnesota. Diving will be held on the 17th with a session for Class 1A in the morning and a session for Class 2A in the evening. The Class 1A and 2A swimming meets will be split across the 18th and 19th with one taking place on the 18th and the other on the 19th, but which will be when has yet to be decided.
Each class' eight sections will be split into two pods of competitors representing four sections each. Competitors from the first pod will compete in the morning and competitors in the second pod will compete in the evening. Swimmers will compete on a time trial format.
Wrestling will be March 25-27, but a location has not been finalized. Recently the tournament has been held at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, but they are looking to move the tournament to a school this year.
The entire state tournament for each class will be completed in a single day, with Class 1A, Class 2A and Class 3A each having its own competition day. The day will start with the team tournament in the morning, followed by the individual tournament in the afternoon and evening.
Four teams and eight individuals per weight class will advance to the state tournament. In order to cut the teams down to four from the traditional eight, two sections will combine for a super regional in which the top two placing teams from each section wrestle a four-team tournament to determine the state qualifier. Which sections will be paired off for the super regional is still to be determined.
The gymnastics tournament will be March 26-27 at Champlin Park High School. Class 1A will compete one day and Class 2A will compete on the other. Each day will be separated into two sessions with the representatives of four sections competing in the morning and the representatives from the other four sections competing in the evening.
Competitors who qualified in both the individual and team events will be scored once in each event with their score counting for both.
The boys and girls state hockey tournaments will take place across seven dates from March 26 through April 3 at Xcel Energy Center. Girls quarterfinals will be March 26-27. Boys quarterfinals will be March 30-31. Girls semifinals will be April 1 and boys semifinals will be April 2. All state championship games will be April 3.
The boys and girls state basketball tournaments will begin March 30 and conclude April 10. Quarterfinals for each will be held on Tuesday, March 30 and Wednesday, March 31, at to-be-determined regional sites. The semifinals and finals will be played at Target Center from April 6-10. Semifinals will be on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and championship games will be on Friday and Saturday.