WEEKLY INTERVIEW WITH NMAA EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SALLY MARQUEZ MARCH 29, 2021
New Mexico Activities Association Executive Director Sally Marquez answers questions about the return to athletics and activities for the 2020-2021 school year. Here is this week’s interview.
You wrapped up the Western Sky Community Care state cross country championships this past weekend. How did it go and what sort of feeling was it to finally have a state championship event?
What a fantastic event. The first race that went off, I got chills and my eyes got teary because all that hard work they had done and the kids never gave up. In the fall, cross country kids thought they were going to start in October and they weren’t able to. They had been training this whole time hoping for this chance and opportunity. Just to be able to have that race was fantastic. Everybody was very thankful and it was a fantastic event. Kudos to Albuquerque Academy who put together a wonderful course and a wonderful environment. It was a very positive experience.
State volleyball starts this week. How did the seeding process go?
It’s difficult. I’ve been saying from the very beginning we shrunk the field from 12 teams to eight and that would make it difficult. Every district champion qualified and in some classes that’s six or seven teams that earned an automatic berth. Then we had to pull just one or two teams for at-large spots. We used our criteria points to seed and we didn’t have a lot of data. Some only had 12 games or 6 games or ten games, when usually we have 20. It is not ideal, but we’ve said from the beginning we are having a culminating event, we need to be thankful for that. Our kids were able to participate this year. We had a start and now we are going to finish this week.
Will fans be allowed to attend state volleyball?
That will depend on the color of the county. The quarterfinals and semifinals are at home sites or neutral sites. If that county is green or turquoise, then they are allowed to have fans. As far as the finals are concerned, right now Bernalillo county is still yellow. Therefore, at the Pit in the finals, we will not be able to have fans. But we will stream those games through the NFHS network and everybody will have the opportunity to watch it live.
This will be the final week of the shortened football regular season. It might not be for a blue trophy, but still meaningful to a lot of schools and athletes. How did you determine the final matchup and decide who will be playing at UNM football stadium?
The first thing we did was ask schools if they were opting in or opting out. Once we had schools that decided not to play and end their season and move onto basketball, then we removed them from the list. Then we put all the teams on the board and looked to see what was their two or three game schedule, or four games they played, how did they play in those games, and we did the best we could to find a pairing of a good, meaningful game to end the season for those teams. Once we found those pairings, then we made a decision who would host. We looked to see who had home games and who had to travel. Maybe someone only had one home game, so they deserved a home game for this matchup. As far as the games at UNM, we made sure we had a very meaningful game in every classification. It has nothing to do with #1 versus #2 because we are not handing out a blue trophy. It is very difficult with limited data of only three games or four games to decide who are the best two teams in the state.
This weekend, the NMAA will seed for the state soccer championships. How will this year’s tournament be different?
Just like volleyball, we are lowering the number of teams from 12 to eight, and in the A-AAA Classification we are going to four teams. The first rounds will be at home sites. The finals will be at the University of New Mexico and Robertson Field. Again, UNM is in a yellow county, however, since soccer is outdoors we will be able to have limited fan capacity. The same with football, we will be able to have 25% capacity. The home sites will depend on the color of the county, but right now we have no red counties in the state of New Mexico so fans will be able to see soccer and football games.
Lastly, we are beginning winter sports, including basketball, a sport a lot of people are passionate about in this state. Will there be a basketball state championship and will fans be allowed?
Basketball championships will look very similar to volleyball and soccer. We will pair it down to eight teams and the first couple rounds will be at home sites and we will have the finals at the Pit. We will be able to have fans? This is where we need to come together as a community and make sure we turn these counties to green and turquoise. We’re getting closer. There’s fewer yellow counties now and a lot of green and turquoise counties. But for those yellow counties, we need to make sure we follow the governor’s orders, mask wear, and social distance, and get these counties to green so we can have fans in the stands for these student athletes. If they are turquoise or green, then we can have fans, but every two weeks it changes. So, we need to keep that up so it doesn’t revert back to yellow or red. We had a great fall season, and we are ending fall. We are starting basketball, an indoor sport, and we need to do everything we can to support those student athletes as well. We’ve had a great start. We’re almost finishing fall sports and months ago we didn’t even know if we’d be here. We have a start and now we’ve got to finish.