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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.

We are sitting here at The Pit.  How different was this year’s tournament as opposed to last year, when the pandemic first hit?

The semifinals and finals last year we had no one in the stands.  This year we had a crowd, yes, it was a little bit smaller than previous years but the energy was still here.  It was back.  The kids were participating, coaches were coaching, it was such a neat environment and it felt so good to see the kids on the floor competing.  Masks or no masks, it didn’t matter, we were back as a group in the state of New Mexico playing in one of the greatest events that we have.

How much of a challenge was it having home sites and neutral sites the first couple rounds and do you anticipate doing that again next year?

We anticipate to be back to a little bit of normalcy next year, so we anticipate here in the metro area on Tuesday through Saturday for state basketball.  This year it was challenging in the quarterfinals and semifinals, but the kids did a great job and the athletic directors worked together to make sure we had good ballgames and good sites for the ones that were traveling to a neutral site.  Once again, we came together as a state to make this happen for kids.

This same building will host state spirit this weekend.  What can fans expect for that event?

Right now, it’s quiet in this building, but it’s not going to be quiet this coming weekend.  We will have cheer on Friday and dance on Saturday.  One difference this year is that the cheerleaders and dancers will do two routines in one day.  They will come into the Pit, warmup, do a performance, they will be able to rest, dancers will change clothes and then they will come back and do another performance.  That’s the biggest difference with spirit this year.  But this place will be rocking because the cheerleaders and dancers want to compete because they didn’t get to compete last year.  The excitement is there and we are going to have a quality event.

How can fans get tickets for state spirit?

Tickets will go on sale either Monday or Tuesday and that will depend on the University of New Mexico.  They can get tickets at golobos.com. In cheer, we are going to have two sessions.  We will have a morning session and an afternoon session.  They will need to buy tickets for the session they want to see.  Once they perform, they are going to leave the arena.  I anticipate that the fans will leave also.  But we will have fans in the stands, parents will be able to see their athlete compete and we will have another quality event, something that we missed last year but we are so excited to have this year.

State Swimming and Diving also takes place this weekend.  With Bernalillo County going to turquoise, does that change anything when it comes to spectators?  Are fans allowed at state swimming?

We had basketball, we have state swimming and diving and spirit coming up, so we are busy, but our kids are able to compete.  We’ve said since the beginning of the pandemic that we wanted to make sure every kid gets the opportunity to compete in the sport they love.  When it comes to swimming and diving, even though Bernalillo county is turquoise, we are only allowed 33% capacity for spectators.  With the amount of athletes we have, even though we are separating genders with the girls on Thursday and the boys on Saturday, the amount of people we can have in that facility would exceed the 33% if we allowed fans.  So we are not able to have spectators in that facility.  However, we will stream them on the NFHS network and we will make sure the parents are able to see every event.

Lastly, we finished fall sports, we are close to putting a wrap on winter sports.  How confident are you spring sports will continue and get their deserved culminating events?

The goal has always been that we are going to play every sport in the 2020-2021 school year.  We are halfway there.  We are almost ready to finish winter sports and spring sports are competing right now.  I am very confident that we are going to get to the finish line.  But in order to get to the finish line, we have to remember that we are still in COVID, we’re still in a pandemic.  We need to make sure we mask wear.  I know it’s getting hotter and the masks are getting tougher to wear, but that is what we need to do to get to the finish line.  Spectators need to make sure they social distance.  We are able to watch outdoor sports now.  We need to make sure we are following all of those guidelines so those kids can have a culminating event in the spring.  That has been so important to me from the beginning. Spring sports did not get that championship or even a season last year and we want to make sure that happens for kids this year.  All I’m asking is that we come together.  We finished fall sports, we’re about ready to finish winter sports, we need to continue to follow the governor’s orders so that we can get to the finish line and those spring sports can have a culminating event.

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